JOHANNESBURG South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party is split at the top over whether Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan should be sacked, sources said on Wednesday.
President Jacob Zuma wants to replace Gordhan and has the support of party Chairwoman Baleka Mbete and Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte, the sources said.
But Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe and Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize want Gordhan to remain and have expressed their opinion to Zuma,
The rift at the top comes amid party divisions over the finance ministers plans to rein in spending as the economy stagnates, analysts say.
While Zuma does not need the backing of the top six ANC members to fire ministers, open criticism might undermine his own position within the party.
“The three have told Zuma he’s making a mistake,” a senior party source told Reuters.
As Gordhan’s future hung in the balance, more volatile trading in the rand currency underlined his reputation as an emblem of South Africa’s stability among investors.
Local assets have been under pressure since Monday when Zuma ordered Gordhan to abandon an investor roadshow in Britain and fly home. Zuma has not given a reason for the recall.
The rand extended losses early on Wednesday as speculation grew Zuma would sack Gordhan after the funeral of anti-apartheid hero Ahmed Kathrada and a cabinet meeting due in the afternoon. It later strengthened against the dollar in response to the first media reports that the party’s leadership was split over his fate. The currency then weakened as much as 0.5 percent.
After attending Kathrada’s funeral, Gordhan said that he will “open a new chapter” of his life if speculation that Zuma is set to sack him possibly later in the day proves correct.
“You deal with it in a professional way … and if one is told one’s services are not required any longer, that’s the end of one chapter, and we open a new chapter,” he said.
CABINET RESHUFFLES ‘NORMAL’
Zuma did not attend the funeral, in line with the wishes of Kathrada’s family. Affectionately known as “Uncle Kathy”, the liberation struggle stalwart who spent 26 years in prison under the apartheid government, was a critic of Zuma.
Addressing mourners at the funeral, former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe said Kathrada had written an open letter to Zuma in April last year asking him to resign.
“Is it asking too much to express the hope that you will choose the correct way, that is gaining momentum, to consider stepping down?” Montlante said, reading from Kathrada’s letter, which drew prolonged applause and a standing ovation.
Zuma, 74, has shown no signs of stepping down before his second and final term as president ends in 2019. Backed by the top echelons of the ANC, he has survived several scandals since taking office in 2009.
Njabulo Nzuza, Secretary General of the ANC Youth League, supported cabinet changes, saying a reshuffle was “normal”.
A cabinet source told Reuters that Wednesday’s meeting might not consider the matter, adding: “Cabinet appointments are solely president’s prerogative, therefore it won’t be something he’ll discuss there.”
The High Court in the capital Pretoria is hearing a case concerning the closure of bank accounts belonging to friends of the president, the Gupta brothers. The case has long been a bone of contention between Zuma and his finance minister.
(Additional reporting by Tanisha Heiberg in Johannesburg, Mfuneko Toyana in Pretoria and Wendell Roelf in Cape Town; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Richard Lough)
So, Mr President, first citizen, protector of the Constitution, freedom, democracy and the legacy of the ANC, how does it feel? 8
How does it feel, stripped of the chimera of those paid to protect, support and sing your praises, to find yourself naked and exposed in your absence?
How does it feel to witness the still burning embers of the soul of the movement you currently lead flicker more brightly away from your toxic presence?
Uncle Kathy spoke from beyond the grave on Wednesday when former President Kgalema Motlanthe read out his plea for you to step down. Will you heed the ancestor? Will you do the honourable thing?
How does it feel, President Jacob Zuma, to find yourself outside of the tent, literally and metaphorically, of the broad church that was and is the ANC, a party that produced leaders like Ahmed Kathrada and those who came before him?
How does it feel to be politely requested by an honourable man, through his family, for you to stay away from his final farewell to a nation he served so selflessly and for which he endured so many sacrifices?
How does it feel, President Zuma, to find that the absence of your presence triggers, once again, great dreams of possibility and hope? How does it feel to listen to those who do not hide behind slogans but whose lives, honourably led, provide leadership and an example of the principles – unity, sacrifice, democracy, justice, non-racialism, and non-sexism – embedded at the heart of the ANC?
How does it feel to witness the solidarity, respect and humanity of those who are not up for sale, whose dedication and pride drives their ethic of service and commitment to the majority of South Africans, who patiently wait while some in your leadership line up to feed at the trough of nepotism, patronage, cronyism, greed and corruption?
How does it feel to be found wanting by a towering moral icon like Kathrada, to see those who you seek to marginalise, divide and excommunicate gathered as one in the understanding that leaders are not bigger than the organisation?
How does it feel to be asked by a man of unquestionable ethics and moral character to step down?
Your absence on Wednesday at the fitting send-off of a national hero and icon brought lightness and hope in a week of chaos and darkness caused by your self-serving, destructive, divisive and disrespectful leadership.
Your shadow mercifully, and thanks to Uncle Kathy, did not darken the door or the path of collective freedom and democracy we could all glimpse from inside that marquee at Kathrada’s graveside. Gathered there, South Africans in all our diversity and glory were united.
Without you we could, for a moment, feel again the surge of immense potential, the wellspring of a common vision and human solidarity that ANC leaders like Kathrada wove into the DNA of the movement.
You did not, President Zuma, respond to Uncle Kathy’s pained letter he wrote after the damning Constitutional Court judgement with regard to your brazen use of public money to renovate your private home at Nkandla. Perhaps you did not read it.
Read it now:
“I did not speak out against Nkandla although I thought it wrong to have spent public money for any president’s private comfort. I did not speak out though I felt it grossly insulting when my President is called a ‘thief’ or a ‘rapist’; or when he is accused of being ‘under the influence of the Guptas’.
“I believed that the NEC would have dealt with this as the collective leadership of the ANC.
“When I learnt of the dismissal of Minister (Nhlanhla) Nene and the speculated reasons for this, I became very worried. I’m fully aware, it is accepted practice that the appointment and dismissal of Ministers is the prerogative of the President.
“This might be technically correct but in my view it is against the best traditions of our movement.
“My concern was amplified when it emerged that the Deputy Finance Minister reported that he was offered the Finance Minister post by members of the Gupta family.
“The people’s interest must at all times remain supreme.
“In this instance it was clearly not the case. The resultant crisis that the country was plunged into was clearly an indication that the removal of the Minister was not about the interests of the people.
“The unanimous ruling of the Constitutional Court on the Nkandla matter has placed me in an introspective mode and I had to ask myself some very serious and difficult questions. 2
“Now that the court has found that the President failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law, how should I relate to my President? If we are to continue to be guided by growing public opinion and the need to do the right thing, would he not seriously consider stepping down?
“I am not a political analyst, but I am now driven to ask: Dear Comrade President, don’t you think your continued stay as President will only serve to deepen the crisis of confidence in the government of the country?
“And bluntly, if not arrogantly; in the face of such persistently widespread criticism, condemnation and demand, is it asking too much to express the hope that you will choose the correct way that is gaining momentum, to consider stepping down?”
Will you, President Zuma? DM
Original photo: South African President Jacob Zuma arrives at a plenary session of the Africa-South America Summit in Margarita Island September 27, 2009. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Mail and Guardian
The ANC’s top six are divided on the axing of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
The Mail & Guardian has reliably learned that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and treasurer Zweli Mkhize have vehemently opposed the removal of Gordhan.
Zuma reportedly presented the name of Brian Molefe as the new finance minister but the three top leaders rejected the president’s choice.
Molefe’s name was also rejected by the SA Communist Party, in a meeting with Zuma earlier this week.
Zuma had intended to make the announcement yesterday but was warned that members of the top six would publically voice their disagreement with the decision.
In the meeting with the top six, the president had presented concerns over Gordhan’s close relationship with “white monopoly capital” as the reason for the change.
Jenni Evans, News24
President Jacob Zuma. (GCIS)
”President Zuma will not attend the funeral and memorial service in compliance with the wishes of the family,” said a statement ahead of the funeral of one of the last Rivonia trialists, and one of Zuma’s fellow prisoners on Robben Island.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead the government delegation going to the funeral and Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting has been postponed to accommodate the ministers attending the funeral.
&amp;lt;a href=”http://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/jump?iu=/8900/24.com/Web/News24/SouthAfrica/Articles&amp;amp;sz=600×50&amp;amp;c=2021745485&amp;amp;t=artid%3d23de1496-99c6-4f7f-ab10-b66d46293b42%26People%3djacob+zuma%2cahmed+kathrada%26accreditation%3dnews24%26posno%3d1″ target=”_blank”&amp;gt;&amp;lt;img src=”http://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/ad?iu=/8900/24.com/Web/News24/SouthAfrica/Articles&amp;amp;sz=600×50&amp;amp;c=2021745485&amp;amp;t=artid%3d23de1496-99c6-4f7f-ab10-b66d46293b42%26People%3djacob+zuma%2cahmed+kathrada%26accreditation%3dnews24%26posno%3d1″ border=”0″ alt=””&amp;gt;&amp;lt;/a&amp;gt;
Kathrada died in hospital in Johannesburg on Tuesday morning and will be laid to rest at the West Park cemetery in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
Zuma he offered condolences for the loss of one of the nation’s ”valuable and most respected freedom fighters”.
He said: “The passing of Mr Kathrada is a monumental loss not only to his family but to all South Africans as he was one of the fearless and dedicated architects of the free and democratic South Africa.”
Zuma said he had sacrificed his personal freedom and persevered through hardships for the liberation of all South Africa and to create a democratic, non-racial, peaceful and prosperous South Africa.
Kathrada was among a number of anti-apartheid struggle veterans who called for Zuma to step down and openly criticised the African National Congress, the party he was aligned too.
ABIDJAN A court in Ivory Coast acquitted former First Lady Simone Gbagbo of crimes against humanity and war crimes charges linked to her role in a 2011 civil war that killed about 3,000 people, state television announced on Tuesday.
The trial, the West African nation’s first for crimes against humanity, was held in an Ivorian court after the government rejected her extradition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
Gbagbo, who has often been absent from the trial on complaints of poor health, was not present for the verdict.
Her husband, ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, is standing trial before the ICC on similar charges connected to the brief conflict, which was triggered by his refusal to accept defeat to Ouattara in a 2010 presidential run-off election.
“We are happy. Since the start of the trial we proclaimed her innocence. The prosecution’s case against her was empty,” her lawyer Mathurin Dirabou told Reuters after the verdict was announced.
But Human Rights Watch said the judgement left “unanswered serious questions about her alleged role in brutal crimes.”
“The acquittal … reflects the many irregularities in the process against her,” Param-Preet Singh, Associate Director in Human Rights Watch’s International Justice programme, said.
“The poor quality of the investigation and weak evidence presented in her trial underscore the importance of the ICC’s outstanding case against her for similar crimes.”
Simone Gbagbo had already been tried and convicted in March 2015 of offences against the state and sentenced to 20 years in prison, a jail term that was upheld on appeal this month.
Prosecutors in her war crimes trial alleged she was part of a small group of party officials from Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) which planned violence against supporters of Alassane Ouattara, who is now president, to stop him taking power.
“We regret this decision when we think of the many victims,” Soungaola Coulibaly, lawyer for the victims, told Reuters by telephone.
“If Simone Gbagbo is declared not guilty of these acts then who was? … The victims do not understand this decision.”
(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Tim Cocks and James Dalgleish)
Two UN experts who were missing in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been found dead, officials say.
The bodies of US citizen Michael Sharp and Swedish national Zaida Catalan were discovered in the central Kasai region, a government spokesman said.
They were abducted two weeks ago after going to Kasai to investigate reports of abuses after local rebels took up arms.
Some 40 police officers were found beheaded in the region at the weekend.
Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende confirmed reports of the discovery to the BBC.
Mr Mende said that the bodies were found in a shallow grave, adding that “the woman was found beheaded, but the body of the man was intact”.
In a statement from UN headquarters in UN, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said they “lost their lives seeking to understand the causes of conflict and insecurity” in DR Congo.
“The United Nations will do everything possible to ensure that justice is done,” he added.
Earlier, Mr Mende said that two bodies “of Caucasian or European type” had been discovered on the road linking Bukonde to Tshimbulu in Central Kasai.
“As far as I know, no other white individuals are missing here,” Mr Mende said.
He later told reporters that a police commissioner had returned from Kasai with confirmation of their identities.
“According to a witness, they were ambushed by the famous traditionalist Kamwina Nsapu militia, who behead their victims,” he said.
A third body found in the same location was that of their interpreter, Betu Tshintela.
Mr Sharp and Ms Catalan were taken, along with four Congolese support staff, into the forest near the village of Ngombe in Kasai.
The Congolese government is fighting a rebel group which operates in the area and is believed to have kidnapped the experts.
The violence in Kasai was sparked by the killing of traditional leader Kamwina Nsapu, who was leading an uprising against President Joseph Kabila.
Before Mr Mende announced the bodies had been identified, John Sharp, Michael’s father, expressed his heartbreak on Facebook.
“This is a message I hoped never to write… Dental records and DNA samples will be used to confirm the identities,” Mr Sharp wrote.
“All other words fail me.”