Ramaphosa, Mantashe 'rejected' Zuma's reasons for axing Gordhan

Johannesburg – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe made a last ditch effort to try and persuade President Jacob Zuma not to fire Pravin Gordhan, but failed.

News24 understands that Ramaphosa and Mantashe again rejected the decision during a meeting with Zuma on Thursday night. This was the second time Ramaphosa and Mantashe objected to Zuma’s plans.

The first time was on Monday, when they met with him and he announced his plans to the party’s top six to fire Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas.

Sources say Zuma again presented the "Operation Checkmate" intelligence report to justify the dismissals.

He had presented the report to the SACP and ANC bilateral meeting on Monday. The alliance partner also rejected Zuma’s plans.

The SACP rubbished the badly-written report that claims Gordhan and Jonas were going to use the international investor roadshow to gain support to remove Zuma from office.

Part of the leaked report states that they had set up secret meetings to start "Operation Checkmate" during their roadshow.

"The bankers were going to be told that the ministry of finance and treasury stand together against the president and the corruption of the Guptas…They will also tell the banks that they have [the] support of the many in ANC and other parties to force the president out," the widely-distributed report stated.

'Unsubstantiated allegations'

One source told News24 that Ramaphosa and Mantashe had objected to the contents of the report.

"They told him (Zuma) that the report contains unsubstantiated allegations," the source said.

The ANC’s top six were summoned to Zuma’s state house in Pretoria on Thursday.

It is understood the meeting started at 18:00 and lasted four hours, ending around 22:00. After the meeting, Zuma started calling affected ministers to inform them of the changes.

Mantashe told News24 that he did not agree to the changes.

"For the first time, officials could not agree [with] or endorse the changes. The president had to invoke the prerogative derived from the Constitution of the Republic," Mantashe said.

But we will work with them, they are members of the ANC, he said.

Reshuffle

President Jacob Zuma fired five ministers and appointed six new deputy ministers, despite opposition from his party and alliance partners.

The Presidency released a statement just after midnight announcing that Gordhan would be replaced by Malusi Gigaba as finance minister. His deputy will be Sfiso Buthelezi.

He fired Derek Hanekom, who last year November led the call for Zuma to step down during the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting.

He also fired Ngoako Ramatlhodi, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, and Dipuo Peters. Other ministers have been moved to new portfolios.

His detractors within the party and alliance believe Gordhan and Jonas were being fired because they were refusing to sign off on deals, including nuclear energy agreements and deals at South African Airways (SAA).

On Thursday, the SACP warned that his decision risks the unity of the alliance.

They planned to call for an urgent meeting with the ANC following their politburo on Friday.

SACP second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila said Treasury needed to be handled with care. It supported Gordhan and said he was running one of the cleanest departments.

"Now we will open floodgates to loot the department… we must not allow the parasite and vultures to encircle it (Treasury) and loot it completely," Mapaila said, just hours before Zuma’s shock announcement.

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