South Africa‘s President Jacob Zuma sacked finance minister Pravin Gordhan in a cabinet reshuffle after days of speculation that has rocked the country’s markets and currency, replacing him with home affairs head Malusi Gigaba.
A statement from the president’s office just after midnight on Thursday said Zuma had also appointed Sfiso Buthelezi as Deputy Finance Minister replacing Mcebisi Jonas.
A steep decline in the rand underlined Gordhan’s reputation among investors as a guardian of policymaking stability in South Africa.
Gigaba has been Home Affairs Minister, while Buthelezi did not hold a position in the cabinet and was a backbencher in parliament.
Zuma also made several other changes in his cabinet, affecting ministries such as energy, police, tourism and others. He brought in new faces and moved some ministers to new portfolios.
Speculation over cabinet changes began when Zuma called a meeting of the ruling African National Congress’ top officials on Thursday evening.
“I have directed the new ministers and deputy ministers to work tirelessly with their colleagues to bring about radical socioeconomic transformation and to ensure that the promise of a better life for the poor and the working class becomes a reality,” Zuma said.
Earlier, the ANC-allied Communist Party (SACP) said Zuma had told its officials on Monday that he planned to sack Gordhan. The SACP said it had objected, while the main opposition said it would call a vote of no-confidence in Zuma over the matter.
For the second consecutive day, the influential ANC Youth League issued a statement on Thursday backing Zuma’s planned cabinet changes.
Local assets have been under pressure since Monday, when Zuma ordered Gordhan to abandon an investor roadshow in Britain and fly home. Zuma gave no reason for the recall.
Gordhan said upon his arrival on Tuesday that he was still finance minister. On Wednesday, he said he would “open a new chapter” of his life if sacked.
Gordhan first served as finance minister from 2009 to 2014 and was brought back by Zuma in December 2015 to calm markets spooked by the president’s decision to replace his respected successor, Nhlanhla Nene, with a little-known politician.
Opposition leader Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance, urged resistance to Zuma’s decision to fire Gordhan and Jonas. “We cannot sit by and let this happen,” he said.