Johannesburg - ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe says the public dissonance by senior party leaders over President Jacob Zuma’s controversial Cabinet reshuffle was a “mistake that should not be committed again”.
This after Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize and Mantashe publicly criticised Zuma’s decision to axe Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas as finance minister and deputy respectively.
They alleged that Zuma had merely informed them of the decision to reshuffle his Cabinet, which resulted in five ministers and deputies fired during a purge described as “Night of the Long Knives” on Thursday last week.
Mantashe reportedly said the Cabinet reshuffle list was developed “elsewhere” and presented to them to legitimise, and that they were not consulted on the matter.
Briefing the media following the extended national working committee (NWC) in Joburg on Wednesday, Mantashe said the meeting over the past two days was “quite a serious meeting”.
It was called to discuss the recent developments in the movement and calls by alliance partners including the SACP and Cosatu for Zuma to go.
He said the Cabinet reshuffle had created anxiety and undue confusion. “The public dissonance on the matter was a mistake that should not be committed again. We shall be adult enough to close the door and beat each other up, rather than the leadership of the ANC going public about their disagreements. This was unprecedented,” said Mantashe.
On the growing calls for Zuma to go, Mantashe said the NWC resolved to engage the alliance partners and civil society on the matter.
The president had reportedly said it was his prerogative to reshuffle the Cabinet, but Mantashe said consultation on matters of deployment “is a principle of the organisation, not a favour”.
“The prerogative of president, premiers and mayors should be exercised after consultation with leadership of the organisation. That’s a conference resolution.”
Zuma had used what Gordhan termed “a very unintelligent intelligence report” to fire him from the crucial portfolio.
Mantashe said: “The issue of the intelligence report complicated the matter, creating a lot of unhappiness. (The intelligence report was) presented as the only reason for his (Gordhan) removal, which is unfortunate and incorrect. There was a breakdown of relationship between the president and the minister. That should have been sufficient a (reason) than to complicate matters by presenting a questionable intelligence report.”
He confirmed that South Africa would develop nuclear energy at a scale and pace the country could afford.
Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s cut the country’s credit rating to junk status this week, citing uncertain policy following the Cabinet reshuffle. “The ANC and its government remain committed to prudent financial management. We have confidence in new Finance Minister (Malusi Gigaba) and deputy (Sifiso Buthelezi),” said Mantashe.