Communications lockdown in wake of Nene axing

Johannesburg - Ministers and ANC politicians were on a communication lockdown on Thursday in the wake of the announcement that Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene had been axed.

The announcement that a new minister had been appointed was met with shock and disappointment, and has sent the Rand plummeting.

This also comes at a time when the country could be facing "junk" status.

President Jacob Zuma announced late on Wednesday that he was replacing Nene with relatively unknown ANC backbencher David van Rooyen.

- INFOGRAPHIC: Van Rooyen's steep climb

Less than 24 hours after the announcement, speculation was rife that more ministers could soon be facing the chop.

According to a report, this included Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

Attempts by News24 to get hold of Radebe and Nzimande regarding the report were unsuccessful.

Davies, who was briefing reporters in Cape Town on Thursday, could not escape questioning.

However, the minister would not be drawn into speculating about if he would be one of the next ministers to lose their job.

"Ministers' jobs are at [the] pleasure of [the] president," he said.

"If and when [Zuma] makes the call, that's when I'll be able to talk about it. At the moment, I am still minister of trade and industry. I am doing the work of the ministry and it is business as usual for me."

African National Congress leaders were also unreachable, with many of them turning their phones off.

The ANC sent out a short statement on Wednesday night, saying it respected the president's decision.

"The President has exercised his Constitutional prerogative to appoint a new minister who we believe has what it takes to lead the ministry," party spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said at the time.

Despite the ANC saying it is happy with the decision, it's alliance partners seem to think differently.

'Shocking, disconcerting and ill-timed'

The Congress of SA Trade Unions said the move to get rid of Nene was shocking, disconcerting and ill-timed.

The SA Communist Party sent a short statement which merely said that the party had noted the decision, but fell short of welcoming it.

Any decision to reshuffle the Cabinet again might have to wait, following the major outcry over Nene’s "redeployment", analysts have said.

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni on Thursday said the rumblings of more reshuffles might have to be put aside until the furore dies down.

However, he said Zuma was unpredictable.

"Nothing is impossible at this stage."

"It has been said that some of the actions of the Presidency, and the stealthiness with which he removes Cabinet ministers is about shocking people to numbness so that it does not matter who he puts up next.”

Political analyst Daniel Silke said this might not be the right time to do more Cabinet reshuffling, no matter how deserved.

"There is always good opportunity to remove the deadwood from cabinet. But whatever reshuffle might come, it will be overshadowed by the inept timing and manner in which Nene’s dismissal was made."

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