Jacob Zuma launched a cabinet reshuffle on Thursday night that reportedly included the dismissal of Pravin Gordhan as finance minister, a move likely to ignite a challenge to the president’s leadership of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress.
Local media reports indicated that Mr Gordhan was among nine ministers and six deputy ministers being fired in the reshuffle, launched four days after Mr Zuma abruptly recalled his finance minister from an international investor roadshow.
The rand dropped rapidly, falling nearly 4 per cent against the US dollar, as news of the reshuffle began to emerge.
Mr Gordhan has been locked in a power struggle with Mr Zuma for the past year over the Treasury’s efforts to tackle cronyism in state-owned enterprises and curb the influence of the Guptas, a business family with close links to the president, in government.
Underlining the stakes for Mr Zuma, the South African Communist Party, a governing ally of the ANC, publicly criticised his plan to fire Mr Gordhan after confirming that the president had told its leaders on Monday of his intentions.
Mr Zuma’s decision to order the respected finance minister to return from an overseas investor roadshow that day rattled South Africans and sent the rand plummeting against the dollar.