Adriaan Basson

Prexit: 5 things to watch out for

2017-03-31 17:58
President Jacob Zuma. (File)

President Jacob Zuma. (File)

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WATCH: News24's editor in chief makes sense of Cabinet reshuffle

2017-03-31 09:33

News24's editor in chief, Adriaan Basson weighs in on President Jacob Zuma's Cabinet reshuffle. Watch.WATCH

President Jacob Zuma has pressed the red button and South Africa has a new finance minister.  

Pravin Gordhan has exited. Malusi Gigaba is in.

These are the five things to look out for over the next few days.

1. What Will Cyril Do?

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is deeply upset with Zuma's abrupt sacking of Gordhan on the strength of a bogus intelligence report. He has compared it to the infamous 2001 "plot" to overthrow Thabo Mbeki as president.

Ramaphosa tried to persuade Zuma not to fire Gordhan, but failed. He has now confirmed that he will not resign, but remain inside the ANC’s broad church to see things through.

The question Ramaphosa needs to ask himself is this: does his presence actually make any difference? I guess his logic would be that with him out of the way, another Gupta-ite will enter as deputy president and state capture will intensify.

But with all due respect, what difference has Ramaphosa’s presence made to state capture efforts by the Guptas and their cohorts? What has he done to protect National Treasury, Denel, the Reserve Bank, Eskom and Transnet from the Saxonwold Shebeen?

It is an open secret that Ramaphosa wants to become ANC president in December, but at what price? If he wants to be the candidate for the “good forces” in the ANC, Ramaphosa would need to do more than talking.

2. What about the communists?

The communists in cabinet – Blade Nzimande, Rob Davies, Ebrahim Patel, Senzeni Zokwana and Thulas Nxesi – got a get-out-of-jail card from Zuma after initially being on the chopping block.

It is still unclear why Zuma decided to “save” the SACP leaders. Did he make a secret deal with them? It is unlikely that they would have been willing to negotiate a deal with Zuma after Thursday’s scathing press conference, at which they fully backed Gordhan and rubbished the so-called intelligence report that led to the finance minister’s sacking.

Will they resign in solidarity with Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas, his deputy? Or will they, like Ramaphosa, argue that it’s better to remain inside the tent (although their influence in the executive would have diminished significantly with the demise of Gordhan)?

3. How will the markets react?

Although the rand has recovered substantially on Friday, local and foreign investors remained jittery on what the sacking of Gordhan and the appointment of Gigaba meant for their investments in South Africa.

Political and risk advisors had a busy day on Friday as they were trying to make sense of Zuma’s red button move in the early hours of Friday morning.

Unlike the “weekend special” Des van Rooyen, Gigaba is not a cabinet novice and has no clear economic ideology. He is seen as a centrist, although his spokesperson and adviser Mayihlome Tshwete identifies with the anti-monopoly capital brigade on social media.

Ratings agency Moody’s will issue their next credit rating in a week’s time and analysts are speculating that Gordhan’s axing will move South Africa closer to junk status. This will have a disastrous impact on South African consumers and businesses.

4. Can the opposition get 50 ANC MPs to swing?

To succeed with a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma, the opposition parties need 50 out of the ANC’s 249 members of parliament to vote with them. Gordhan said on Friday he would vote with his “conscience”.

But this comes at a huge risk for ANC MPs, as the vote is likely to be in public. If they do not garner enough votes, those ANC MPs who voted with the opposition will be in big trouble with Zuma.

Chief whip Jackson Mthembu has been outspoken in his opposition to Zuma’s decision to axe Gordhan and Jonas. He will be instrumental in getting a substantial number of ANC MPs to vote their own president out of office.

Both the DA and EFF have written to speaker Baleka Mbete, asking an urgent vote next week.

5. Will Gigaba drop Treasury’s cases against the Guptas?

At least three Gupta-linked companies are currently litigating against National Treasury and the minister of finance. If Gigaba was indeed appointed by Zuma to help his friends, he would probably change legal instructions in these cases and capitulate.

Judgment has been reserved in Gordhan’s case against Oakbay about the closing of their bank accounts by the banks and the high court in Pretoria has dismissed an urgently application by the Habib Bank, but Denel is still litigating against National Treasury for their failure to approve the VR Laser transaction, that would benefit the Guptas.

It will soon become clear if Gigaba is in his new job to serve South Africa’s population of 55 million or the president and his friends.

Read more on:    pravin gordhan
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