Sacking of finance minister shakes South African politics

Criticism arises over sacking of well-known finance minister by South African President Jacob Zuma

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Jacob Zuma, leader of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC), sings for his supporters at the Pietermaritzburg high court outside Durban.

Criticism has arisen over South African President Jacob Zuma’s decision to remove Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene.

Many experts from around the world have agreed with opposition politicians and are criticising the decision of Zuma to remove Nhlanhla Nene on Wednesday and replace him with David van Rooyen, a less known lawmaker from the governing Africa National Congress (ANC) party.

There was no reason given by Zuma regarding the removal of the highly respected Nene, who became the country’s first black finance minister in May 2014.

South Africa has been facing serious financial problems in the recent years, particularly with unemployment, which is at a staggering rate of 25 percent, GDP growth has decreased and power cuts effect industrial production.

The South African rand also dropped by about 5.7 percent against the dollar after the announcement, holding at a record low of about 15.5 to the US currency.

"Zuma's bad decision has influenced our economy negatively. The rand has now fallen to a record low," Professor Andre Duvenhage of South Africa’s Northwest University told Anadolu Agency on Thursday.

Duvenhage said the country will be heading into local government elections in 2016 and the ruling ANC needs money for campaigns, which Nene probably would have been reluctant to release.

Credit agency Fitch Ratings also criticized  Zuma’s decision. 

"The replacement of Nhlanhla Nene as South Africa's Finance Minister increases uncertainty about fiscal policy and contingent liabilities from state-owned companies, although it is unclear at this stage whether this will result in significant policy changes," Fitch Ratings said in a note Thursday.

Apart from the business sector, opposition politicians also criticised Zuma’s decision.

"President Zuma has failed to take the necessary action to rescue our economy or to take the decisions that conserve our fiscal stability, and has instead removed the minister who showed signs of fiscal prudence," federal leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance Party Mmusi Maimane said on Thursday

South Africa's Economic Freedom Fighters party defined the removal of Nene as a serious "pathological" crisis in the leadership and direction of the country.

"Zuma has appointed him because he knows that Van Rooyen will not stand up to him when he wants to do the wrong things," the party spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said in a statement.

The image of Zuma’s government has been tarnished by corruption scandals and anger is growing among young South Africans that the benefits of the post-apartheid era have been taken by small elite group within the African National Congress.

TRTWorld and agencies