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Treasury confirms #Gordhan is on his way home

Politics
Cape Town – Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and finance director general Lungisa Fuzile would return to South Africa on Monday, National Treasury said on Monday, after President Jacob Zuma took the extraordinary step of ordering that they cut short a trip to London where they were talking to investors.

The pair "are preparing to return tonight from the UK and are expected to arrive in South Africa tomorrow morning," the treasury said in a statement.

It offered no further comment, nor did Zuma's office explain why the embattled finance minister was told to interrupt the post-budget foreign roadshow aimed at reassuring investors about the local economy.

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Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan and finance director general Lungisa Fuzile. File picture: Masi Losi/Independent Media

The presidency earlier simply said that they had been asked to return and that Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas's planned trip to the United States to speak to investors there had been cancelled.

He had been due to leave South Africa on Monday night. The news saw the rand weaken throughout the day and prompted renewed speculation that a Cabinet reshuffle was imminent. The Democratic Alliance demanded that Zuma explain his motives, and said the development bode ill for the economy.

"The instruction to cancel the international investor roadshow without explanation is so bizarre that it appears, at best, calculated to humiliate the minister or, at worst, to suggest that the minister is about to be fired in a cabinet reshuffle," DA finance spokesman David Maynier said.

Monday's directive from the presidency came after more than a year of tension between Zuma and the finance minister, who last year described a decision to charge him with fraud as "political mischief".

The matter never made it to court as the charges, which related to the re-employment of a top official at the South African Revenue Services, were withdrawn some weeks after they were brought.

Gordhan has openly and frequently referred to the uncertainty of his situation. Earlier this month, he told Parliament's standing committee on public accounts that National Treasury came under political pressure when it was obliged to intervene when other government departments failed to do their job.

"We get into this sloganeering … contain Treasury, take over Treasury. You have all heard it, and I don't think it is child's play at the end of the day." He added: "I am still standing.”

Bloomberg earlier reported that Gordhan told the international news agency he intended to conclude his engagement with foreign investors in London. He had been due to return to South Africa on Monday night.

On Tuesday, the Pretoria High Court is set to hear Gordhan's application for a declaratory order that he could not intervene on behalf of the politically-connected Gupta family in commercial banks' decision to close their accounts.

The case has seen the finance minister lift the lid on banking transactions by companies in their business empire that were flagged as suspicious by the Financial Intelligence Centre.

The news that Gordhan had been ordered home appeared to have had an immediate impact on the rand.

"After reaching R12.31/USD, R13.38/EUR and R15.45/GBP today [Monday] on its recent strengthening trend aided by international factors the rand then weakened markedly on market rumours that the National Treasury’s road show was interrupted as Finance Minister Gordhan was purportedly instructed to return to SA," Investec said.

Bloomberg said the rand weakened as much as 1.9 percent against the dollar on the back of Zuma’s instruction to Gordhan and Jonas.

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