Sun, Apr 02, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Minister’s sacking widens rift in S Africa

‘UNPRECEDENTED’:It will be difficult for South African President Jacob Zuma to shrug off the conflict within the ANC, as the divisions have gone public, an academic said

NY Times News Service, JOHANNESBURG

The two rival factions inside South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) on Friday attacked each other publicly after South African President Jacob Zuma abruptly fired minister of finance Pravin Gordhan, who was considered a bulwark against government corruption.

Zuma, who has been embroiled in a series of scandals since taking office in 2009, dismissed Grovan as part of a late-night Cabinet reshuffle in which 10 of 35 ministers were fired.

South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa called the decision “unacceptable.”

ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe said the reshuffle was not done with the party’s approval.

“Ministers have been moved, and the majority of them were good performing ministers,” Mantashe said.

Senior ANC lawmaker Jackson Mthembu said Gordhan’s only crime was “incorruptibility.”

“It’s unprecedented to have senior ANC members come out with dissenting views in public like this,” said William Gumede, a political scientist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and executive chairman of the Democracy Works Foundation, a good-government group.

“Now that the conflict has gone public, people and party members can see the divisions clearly,” Gumede said. “It will be very difficult for Zuma to shrug this off and claim that everything is fine.”

The firing was a result of a long-running battle between Zuma and Gordhan, and the interests they represent.

Zuma’s supporters have accused Gordhan of representing South Africa’s white-led business community and have urged Zuma to fire the minister and replace him with someone with a looser grip on state coffers, so as to carry out “radical transformation.”

Gordhan’s backers belong to the urban faction of the ANC, one less beholden to the politics of patronage that the party practices in rural strongholds.

The minister’s dismissal sent the rand plummeting as much as 5 percent at one point.

The cost of borrowing for the government jumped, amid fears that rating agencies would downgrade South Africa’s government bonds to “junk” status.

Africa’s most industrialized economy, South Africa is projected to grow 0.8 percent this year amid a jobless rate of 27 percent.

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