Pravin Gordhan. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Pravin Gordhan. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma buckled to pressure relating to the removal of finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and announced last night the re-appointment of Pravin Gordhan to the post.

The shock announcement restoring Mr Gordhan to the post sent the rand surging nearly 5% on Sunday evening.

Desmond Van Rooyen, who was finance minister for a mere four days, now moves over 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 earlier in the day today 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 in Thabo Mbeki’s case 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 around 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.