Johannesburg - South African President Jacob Zuma ordered Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to abort a week-long roadshow meeting with investors and rating companies in London and the US, heightening concern that he’s preparing a cabinet reshuffle.
“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,” presidential spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga said Monday in a statement. The presidency gave no reason for recalling Gordhan and Jonas.
Gordhan, who left South Africa on Sunday to lead a delegation that includes business executives and labor union representatives, said by phone earlier that he was carrying on with his plans to meet investors in London. The minister and the rest of the group started meeting investors in the UK on Monday, Jabu Mabuza, President of Business Unity South Africa President and chairman of Telkom and part of the delegation, said by phone from London.
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Speculation that Gordhan is on the verge of being fired has swirled for months, as he clashed with Zuma over the management of state companies and the national tax agency. While Gordhan has led efforts to keep spending in check and fend off a junk credit rating, Zuma wants to embark on “radical economic transformation” to tackle racial inequality and widespread poverty.
“Whether this is a reshuffle or not, the timing is definitely picked to inflict pain and embarrassment on an already live-wire situation,” George Herman, chief investment officer at Citadel Investment Services in Cape Town, said by phone. “There is no other practical reasoning for the timing of this.”
The rand weakened as much as 1.9 percent against the dollar and was 1.2 percent weaker at 12.5852 at 12:10 p.m. in Johannesburg.
“It’s quite a radical step to recall the minister and his deputy in the middle of an international roadshow,” Mike Davies, the founder of political advisory company Kigoda Consulting said by phone. “This doesn’t necessarily mean a reshuffle is now imminent than it was before, but it shows that tensions clearly exist in the cabinet.”
Treasury spokeswoman Yolisa Tyantsi referred queries to the Presidency when contacted by text message and email.