Since January, speculations of an imminent cabinet reshuffle has continued to swell from an inner caucus affair to a public discussion.
The appointment of Brian Molefe into the government as an ANC MP last month and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma returning to South Africa from the African Union added fuel to the fire.
Molefe, as gathered, is set to take over the reins of the National Treasury from embattled Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan once Zuma reshuffles his cabinet.
And while President Zuma, 74, continues to skirt around matter, reliable sources close to the president divulged that the president told the South African Communist Party (SACP) on Monday that he plans to fire Gordhan.
According to the sources, Zuma told the Blade Nzimande-led party that he plans to dismiss Gordhan, 67, because he’s been blocking him from leading the government.
The sources, who were present and asked not to be identified because a public statement has not been made said the president revealed his intention during a meeting on Monday in Johannesburg.
The same Monday, the presidency canceled an international roadshow embarked on by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Deputy Finance Minister Jonas Mcebisi, instructing them to return home.
With no specific reason or explanation, the presidency said in a one-sentence statement issued at 11:49am:
“President Jacob Zuma has instructed the Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan and Deputy Minister Mcebisi Jonas to cancel the international investment promotion roadshow to the United Kingdom and the United States and return to South Africa immediately.”
Pravin Gordhan, his deputy Mcebisi Jonas and director-general Lungisa Fuzile were to travel to London, Boston and New York for a week-long non-deal investor roadshow.
The roadshow is aimed at wooing investors. Gordhan, who left South Africa on Sunday to lead a delegation that includes business executives and labour union representatives admitted to receiving the presidency’s message on Monday morning.
Although Zuma continues to deny that there is a cold war between him and his finance minister, the president has apparently, showed on very many occasions that an uneasy relationship exists between him and Gordhan.
Last year, fraud charges brought against the minister badly rattled financial markets and spurred accusations of a political “witch-hunt”. They were dropped in October by the National Prosecuting Authority.
Earlier in 2016, he was investigated by the Hawks over allegations of a rogue unit at SARS.
Gordhan took over the finance ministry in December 2015 after the appointment of Zuma’s favourite minister and little-known politician Des Van Rooyen triggered a steep selloff in South African assets.
Meanwhile, Minister Pravin Gordhan has responded to the growing speculation that Zuma is set to replace him. Shortly after he landed at the Johannesburg International airport from an investor roadshow in Britain on Zuma’s order, he simply responded: “let’s wait and see”.
South Africa escaped being downgraded to junk status last year – many thanks to Pravin Gordhan. While S and P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings both rank the country one level above junk, Moody’s puts it two notches higher.
Moody’s is due to revisit that on April 7, followed by S and P at the beginning of June.