PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has cancelled an international investment promotion roadshow by Finance Finister Pravin Gordhan, fuelling speculation that a cabinet reshuffle might be on the cards.
In a show of force, Zuma re-asserted his authority and sent a clear message that he was in charge — by instructing Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas on Monday to return home from the UK and US immediately.
“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,” Presidency spokesperson Dr Bongani Ngqulunga said in a statement.
Rumours have doing rounds that Gordhan would be relieved of his duties following his public fallout with Zuma and a deteriorating relationship between the two in recent months.
Gordhan’s turbulent period with National Prosecuting Authority and the Hawks has also been cited as the reason.
He was at the centre of a storm last year when he was asked to make representations to the Hawks on why he should not be charged criminally for his alleged role in the setting up of a South African Revenue Services (SARS) rogue unit.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Shaun Abrahams charged the finance minister but later withdrew the charges.
The swearing in of former Eskom boss Brian Molefe as a Member of Parliament earlier this year did not help quell the rumours.
It is now speculated that former African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and former Treasury Deputy Minister Jabu Moleketi will be made ministers.
Dlamini-Zuma is expected to be sworn in as MP this week, said ANC and government sources.
A senior government source said Molefe, who was recently accused of irregularities by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report, was unlikely to be affirmed out of fears that his appointment to cabinet might be used by Zuma’s critics to discredit Gordhan’s removal.
“I think Nkosazana and Jabu are the front runners to replace Gordhan and others. The London trip was the final straw for the president. Joshua Doore [Gordhan’s nickname] clearly undermines the president,” said a senior government source.
“That trip had nothing to do with wooing investors. Joshua Doore was going there to report to Johann Rupert and get a new mandate. Jabu is good because he is clean, experienced and his own man.”
Dlamini-Zuma is seen as Zuma’s preferred candidate for the ANC presidency ahead of the party’s December national elective conference in Gauteng.
She is squaring off against Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for the party’s top job.
Gordhan is seen as an integral part of the Ramaphosa camp.
Sources within the African National Congress (ANC) said Gordhan’s removal has been long coming.
“There has been a lot of dissatisfaction with him recently and we knew that his removal was imminent,” said one source.
Gordhan has been in the spotlight since major banks closed the accounts of companies owned by the Gupta family.
The family has strong ties with Zuma.
The Guptas and Gordhan have been locked in a court battle where the minister wants the court to decide if he has the powers to intervene in the matter. Gordhan and his team landed in London on Sunday.
They were expected to proceed to the US as part of their quest to woo international investors.