Pravin Gordhan.  Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS
Pravin Gordhan. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS

PRAVIN Gordhan, who returns to the finance portfolio committee officially on Monday morning, says he is ready for the challenge.

He told BDLive on Sunday night that “uniting all South Africans behind a common goal” was his priority, and he would work hard to “stabilise the situation” as soon as possible.

He will address a press conference in the morning, where he will outline his plan, mainly about growing an inclusive economy and creating jobs.

“We call on all sectors to support us in doing this,”  he told BDLive.

President Jacob Zuma buckled to pressure on Sunday night after he his removal of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister, and announced last night the reappointment of Mr Gordhan to the post he held before Mr Nene.

Rand soars

That unexpected announcement sent the rand surging nearly 5% on Sunday evening, and it added to those gains on Monday morning, strengthening by  a further 4% to trade at R15.1561 to the dollar. It breached R16/$ late last week.

Bonds also responded positively to the announcement, with the benchmark R186 bid at 9.3% from a close of 10.4% on Friday.

Desmond van Rooyen, who was finance minister for a mere four days, now moves to the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs portfolio vacated by Mr Gordhan. He was appointed on Wednesday and sworn in the next day, sparking a public outcry.

The capitulation was welcomed by a broad spectrum of society on Sunday night, ahead of the opening of the markets on Monday.

The backlash from the removal of Mr Nene and the appointment of Mr van Rooyen — a former mayor of Merafong in the west of Gauteng — was swift and brutal late last week, with the markets awash with panic. The rand plummeted to record lows.

Mr Zuma is understood to have met a delegation from the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party on Friday.

On Sunday, bank CEOs met members of the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) top six, and the ANC officials later had a meeting with Mr Zuma.

Sunday night’s announcement came ahead of the ANC’s national working committee meeting on Monday in which his behaviour last week was expected to be discussed. Some national executive committee (NEC) members were already lobbying for an emergency meeting of the NEC.

The NEC has the power to recall a president, as it did with Thabo Mbeki in 2008.

The Presidency said in a media statement issued late last night: “I have received many representations to reconsider my decision. As a democratic government, we emphasise the importance of listening to the people and to respond to their views.”

The indecision over the critical post is likely to hit the ANC and Mr Zuma hard, with a local government election looming in the first half of next year.

Accountable government, says ANC

The African National Congress on Monday said Mr Gordhan’s reappointment as finance minister was an “explicit demonstration of a responsive and accountable government”.

Spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said “the ANC values public activism on matters of public interest”.

“This decision has been occasioned by public concern stressing the need for experience and market assurance on the person who will champion the finance and fiscal policy of the country.”

However, opposition parties the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) both saw Sunday night’s announcement as proof that Mr Zuma’s axing of Mr Nene last week was “reckless”.

“Effectively‚ the country has had three finance ministers in one week‚” the EFF’s Mbuyiseni Quintin Ndlozi said.

“If anyone still does not think we are in a banana republic‚ they cannot be helped.

“The EFF calls for the immediate resignation of Zuma before he plunges the country into a deeper crisis.”

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said Zuma “has been playing Russian roulette with our economy and future … over the past five days”.

“Our currency has reached record lows‚ our banks have lost billions on the JSE and the confidence of investors and ratings agencies has plummeted‚” he said.

“It is quite clear that the president did not anticipate the damage his decision would do to South Africa’s economy nor the backlash he would receive both from the public and from inside the tripartite alliance.”

It was the latter that prompted Sunday night’s announcement‚ Mr Maimane suggested.

“The criticism he has received both inside and outside the ANC shows that he is a president who has lost internal control of his party and who no longer enjoys public support.”

Mr Maimane said it “is common sense to have in cabinet a proven finance minister who brings fiscal discipline to the government”.

“And we trust Gordhan will continue to hold the line of former Nene in respect of SAA (South African Airways) and the nuclear build procurement deal”.

Unlike the EFF‚ the DA leader did not call for Mr Zuma’s removal‚ but instead used the issue as a rallying call for the 2016 local authority polls.

“Now more than ever‚ change is needed in our country‚” he said.

“And next year is our opportunity to start effecting that change when we all have the opportunity to register and vote in the municipal elections.”

Congress of The People (COPE) spokesman Dennis Bloem said the unpredictable state of affairs showed Mr Zuma to be “a walking, talking disaster” for South Africa.

“Nobody knows what is going to happen after another five days,” he said.

“Who can really blame nervy investors when they can no longer predict what is going to happen next. For investments to return to South Africa, voters must act in concert to remove the ruling party from government.”

With TMG Digital