On Thursday night South African President Jacob Zuma fired the widely respected Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan* and set off an outcry by many in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and opposition political parties. By the end of the week, the South African rand had slipped some 8% against the dollar, amid renewed concerns about corruption at the top levels of government. Many South Africans are also concerned that the South Africa’s economy and viability as an investment could be downgraded by credit ratings agencies. (Unemployment in South Africa is a huge challenge, and stands at 27%). From Bloomberg News Jan 26, 2017 : In a 2014 report, the graft ombudsman found that the president unfairly benefited from a taxpayer-funded 215.9 million rand upgrade of his private home, and last year the nation’s top court ruled that he violated his oath of office by refusing to repay some of the money. In a separate finding last year, the ombudsman implied that Zuma allowed a wealthy family in business with his son (the Guptas) to influence cabinet appointments and the awarding of state contracts.
The next South African Presidential election is only in 2019, but all eyes are looking to December of this year. The ANC’s 54th national conference will be held, and Zuma’s support (he is the current ANC President) will surely face a crucial test.
*Fired along with eight other ministers in the cabinet. Technically the South African Constitution allows for the President to do this, but there is wide agreement that this was done in the President’s personal interest, and not in the interests of South African citizens.