Why Zuma’s decision to sack his Finance minister is not a surprise
South African President, Jacob Zuma fired his finance minister Nhlanhla Nene two days ago, and immediately replaced him with former city mayor and member the African National Congress (ANC), David van Rooyen. Following Nene’s dismissal, the South African Rand fell further against the Dollar, to a record low indicating the folly of Zuma’s decision. Following this development South Africans started a protest on twitter, using the hashtag #Zumamustfall, an imitation of the #feesmustfall protests earlier this year. Thousands have already signed up for a march against the Union Building in Pretoria on the 16th of December to call for him to resign.
Many have attributed Zuma’s decision to two major reasons: the refusal of Nene to sanction an amendment to a contract between Airbus and the South African Airways (SAA) and his lackadaisical attitude towards sponsoring a Zuma-proposed nuclear deal with Russia. The amendment of the contract would have seriously affected the state Treasury. Nene’s decision allegedly angered SAA’s chairman, Dudu Myeni who also happens to be a Zuma loyalist and friend. She is also the chairwoman of Zuma’s charity organization. The nuclear deal with Russia, though in the real sense benefits South Africa, was seen as another avenue for Zuma and his cronies to siphon government funds. Nene chose to follow integrity in office, and seems to have been punished for it.
Therefore, Zuma’s decision is really not a surprise. Zuma’s administration has been dogged with different controversies and scandals, most of which have focused on corruption and nepotism. He allegedly has 782 charges for fraud and corruption against him. He has been accused of using state money to upgrade his mansion, and also of nepotism when his daughter was appointed in a senior position in a ministry. This latest act is the last straw as some supporters of his party, the ANC have expressed discontent his decision.
For someone who once said the ANC was more important than South Africa, this is not the first time he’s getting his priorities wrong. Nene, who was appointed 18 months ago, has helped stabilize South Africa’s financial sector, and helped minimize the depreciation of the Rand. This helped to further restore investor confidence. Therefore, anticipating the implications of his announcement on the South African economy should have been his first thought. It is not surprising that the Rand has fallen further after this decision. Sacking Nene has the potential to affect other aspects of the money market in South Africa, including the banking sector.
Zuma’s penchant to act first without thinking has landed him and his party in trouble. His rashness in making decisions will not engender many people’s support for the ANC with many South African’s growing cynicism to its actions. Even if he resigns, he has somehow succeeded in fostering dislike for one of Nelson Mandela’s last living legacies, the ANC.
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