JOHANNESBURG – The Chamber of Mines said on Friday that it was “seriously concerned” at the dismissal of Pravin Gordhan as the minister of finance.
It said the move was “bizarre and difficult to understand”, as it comes at a time when South Africa’s sovereign credit rating is at risk and investor confidence in the economy is at a very low ebb.
“The Chamber agrees with Deputy President [Cyril] Ramaphosa that the firing of well-respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is unacceptable,” the Chamber said in a statement.
“Business, labour and the Treasury have worked hard over the past year to protect South Africa’s credit rating. Leadership stability and capability in the key Finance Ministry and Treasury are crucial to sustaining progress on avoiding a downgrade.”
President Jacob Zuma fired Gordhan and replaced him with Malusi Gigaba, the former minister of home affairs, in a dramatic midnight Cabinet reshuffle.
Gordhan’s deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, was also axed and replaced by Sifiso Buthelezi, Zuma’s former adviser when he was still Economic Development MEC in KwaZulu-Natal between 1994 and 1999.
Ramaphosa on Friday expressed his dissatisfaction with Gordhan’s sacking, adding that Zuma presented the top African National Congress (ANC) leadership with a “ready made” list of the new Cabinet without consultation.
Ramaphosa said many in the ANC were also unhappy with the removal of Gordhan from Cabinet based on an intelligence report that had unsubstantiated allegations.
“I found totally unacceptable that such a person who served the country with such distinction would do something like that,” Ramaphosa said.
The Chamber further said that it was equally hard to fathom why high-performing ministers of exemplary character, who had worked hard to protect the country’s investment credibility were axed while others, who have been embroiled in crises of huge proportions which could have detrimentally affected millions of vulnerable South Africans, were left unscathed.
The Chamber said South Africa needs to have a Finance Ministry and Treasury that are led by competent, capable and respected people who create the basis for investment, growth and transformation in South Africa’s economy.
The mining industry also urged every one of the country’s leaders to promote “the unity of the nation and … advance the Republic”.
“The events of the past few days have placed South Africa on a knife’s edge and are likely to be negative for our credit rating. Instability serves only further to exacerbate the negative impact on the markets and fuel speculation which is damaging to our country’s reputation as an investment destination,” the Chamber said.
“The President has the right to appoint his Cabinet Ministers. As with all rights, however, this right is counterbalanced with accountabilities and responsibilities. The President is beholden, in terms of the Constitution, to serve the interests of the nation. He must promote the unity of the nation and that which will advance the Republic”.