Gordhan admitted he was “unashamedly encouraging mass mobilisation” against the president, saying the country was a vibrant society with a “strong history of mass mobilisation to ensure the people shall govern”.
Gordhan was delivering the keynote address at ANC stalwart Ahmed Kathrada’s memorial service at Johannesburg City Hall on Saturday.
It was organised by the Ahmed Kathrada and Nelson Mandela foundations as well as the SACP in Gauteng after the government postponed the official memorial service, scheduled for Saturday.
Gordhan said the government decision was “petty and spiteful”.
Zuma wielded the axe on Gordhan, his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, and other ministers and deputy ministers on Thursday night, in a move he said would enhance efficiency.
For the move, the president relied on a so-called intelligence report alleging they used the roadshows to sway financial markets against the government.
But Gordhan said the roadshows were held every year after the Budget speech to reassure investors.
He also cleared the air on allegations that a Russian called Mr Chenkov asked about the nuclear programme, before making a call to South Africa that led to Gordhan’s recall.
He said: “One lady asked where we were going with nuclear. We have a standard response, that nuclear is part of the energy mix and will be implemented on a scale and at a pace we can afford.”
Gordhan said a Russian whose name started with a “C” phoned someone in South Africa and they were then told to come home.
Kathrada’s widow and former minister Barbara Hogan criticised Zuma for recalling Gordhan, describing him as “one of our finest finance ministers”.
The hall erupted with chants of “Zuma must go” when Hogan, an anti-apartheid heroine, said Zuma had “sacrificed everything we stood for on the altar of greed and corruption”.
“Mr President, if you had ears to hear and eyes to see, you would step down as Kathy would want,” she said. “This country is not for sale.”
SACP second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila also called on Zuma to step down, saying the ANC needed to choose between Zuma and the people.
As calls for Zuma to go seemed to gain currency, ANC chief whip in the Gauteng provincial legislature, Brian Hlongwa, said no force could stop an idea whose time had come. He said the ANC did not exist for itself and quoted from the Freedom Charter that no government could justly claim authority unless it was based on the will of the people.
Gordhan said recent events should serve to “remind us of the history of mass mobilisation in this country”.
ANC treasurer-general Dr Zweli Mkhize said the briefing by Zuma on the cabinet reshuffle “left the distinct impression that the ANC was no longer the centre and thus depriving the leadership collective of its responsibility to advise politically on executive matters”.
The ANC leadership needed to “seriously apply its mind and express a collective view on these developments”.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has also publicly criticised the reshuffle, and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has reportedly said the reshuffled cabinet list was “developed elsewhere”.
Gordhan said the masses should be worried when top ANC officials admitted that they didn’t know where a decision was made.
Professor Njabulo Ndebele said the country was in a “deep political and moral crisis” characterised by power and greed.
He commended Kathrada’s courage in asking Zuma to step down and said South Africans couldn’t give their hard-earned freedom to a “criminal-syndicate government”.
Zuma’s spokesperson, Dr Bongani Ngqulunga, said the president was not involved in the planning of Kathrada’s memorial service and its cancellation by the government.