S. Africa's Zuma launches 'assault on the poor' by firing finance chief, says Anglican leader

(Photo: Reuters / Mike Hutchings)South Africa's President Jacob Zuma celebrates his re-election as party president alongside newly-elected party deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa (L,) at the National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Bloemfontein Dec. 18, 2012. South Africa's ruling ANC re-elected Zuma as its leader, setting him up for seven more years as head of state of Africa's biggest economy

South Africa's Anglican leader Archbishop Thabo Makgoba says that President Zuma Zuma has launched an assault on the poor by dismissing his finance ministry team.

Confirming recent speculation, Zuma finally fired the much respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan and shuffled 20 ministers and deputy ministers into new roles.

Gordhan was seen as a bulwark against corruption in an administration that is facing growing criticism for maladministration stealing from the coffers of the State.

"President Zuma's dismissal of the stellar team at the finance ministry constitutes an assault on the poor of South Africa," said Makgoba, who has often criticized Zuma for corruption in the past.

"Who stands to lose when we can't raise foreign investment to finance growth in our country? The poor. Who stands to lose when interest rates on the money we already owe gobbles up our nation's resources? The poor."

In a statement around midnight local time on March 31, Zuma justified his decision as part of a desire to increase the number of women and young people in his cabinet, all of whom have been identified a loyal stalwarts of the president.

His late night dismissal triggered a 5 percent plunge in the value of the South African rand currency, the BCC reported.


Zuma's own Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa described the sacking of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan as "totally unacceptable" and said that he had not been consulted by the president over his proposed clean out of the national cabinet.

Ramaphosa told the State broadcaster SABC that he would not resign in response to the sacking but continue to " serve the people."

"I am especially unhappy about the firing of Gordhan and his deputy, to which the financial markets will react negatively. I think it is totally unacceptable that he fired someone like Gordhan, who has served the country excellently, for his own gain and survival," Ramaphosa told News24.

Makgoba said in his March 31 statement, "Who stands to gain when corrupt elites enrich themselves on the side while doing deals worth billions of rands with State-owned enterprises? The people of suburbs like Saxonwold," in reference to one of Johannesburg's most affluent suburbs.

"Ignorance can be educated but there is no cure for recklessness. The President's decisions are a frightening example of a leader who has continually showed his profound indifference to the economic health of South Africa. It is telling that he failed to secure agreement to this reckless move even from within his own party and the ruling alliance," said the archbishop.

"I hope the ruling party will reflect on how they are betraying the hopes of our people and take appropriate action. Civil society too will have to consider for how long we stand by helplessly and watch the gains of our democracy destroyed," said Makgoba.

Richard Poplak wrote in South Africa's Daily Maverick, "The Zuma presidency has ended. The Zuma dictatorship has begun.

"His surprise not-surprise Cabinet reshuffle, which ousted Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas from the Finance Ministry, has already tanked the rand. But it's going to get much, much worse."

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