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Zuma to face mass cabinet walkout if he fires Gordhan

President Jacob Zuma

President Jacob Zuma

Published Mar 30, 2017

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Johannesburg - South African President Jacob Zuma faces a

rebellion within his own party if he fires Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan,

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with about 12 ministers considering resigning their positions and then fighting

for the president’s removal, according to four people familiar with the

situation.

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Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and some deputy

ministers may also resign, the people said, asking not to be identified because

the information isn’t public. The officials would keep their seats in

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parliament and possibly support or abstain from a vote of no confidence in the

president if it’s called by the opposition or by members of the ruling African

National Congress, they said. The rand strengthened.

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Zuma told the ANC’s top six members and officials of the

South African Communist Party, which is allied to the ruling party, that he

planned to fire Gordhan because he was blocking his policies. He ordered the

finance minister to cancel meetings with investors this week in London and the

US and return home, causing the rand to plummet.

The president is still considering his next move. By

firing Gordhan, Zuma risks a market meltdown. If he doesn’t, he may appear weak

as he seeks to secure his choice as successor as party leader in December.

“Zuma is caught between the proverbial

rock-and-a-hard-place,” Daniel Silke, director of Political Futures

Consultancy in Cape Town, said by email. “Should he reconstitute his cabinet in

his own image, he risks unleashing an unintended set of political consequences

that could either fracture his own party or be the making of a rapid downfall.”

Read also:  Zuma gambles with future in Gordhan feud

The rand gained against the dollar, strengthening as much

as 1 percent and was at 12.9241 by 9:33 a.m. on Thursday in Johannesburg. The

yield on the benchmark 10-year rand bond fell for the first time in six days.

Zuma was pressured to appoint Gordhan in 2015 after a

decision to name a little-known lawmaker to the position caused the rand and

bonds to plunge. Since then, he’s feuded with his minister over a planned

nuclear power expansion and the management of state companies and the national

tax agency.

Ronnie Mamoepa, Ramaphosa’s spokesman, didn’t answer

calls seeking comment.

“Once he kicks out Pravin Gordhan, there can be sympathy

resignations and he doesn’t know how to predict that,” Dirk Kotze, a politics

professor at the University of South Africa in the capital, Pretoria, said

Wednesday by phone. “Will it be Ramaphosa plus six, seven, eight, nine other

ministers?”

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