Johannesburg - The axing of Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene had an unforeseen impact on the country, but it did not necessitate a discussion on recalling President Jacob Zuma, the ANC said on Tuesday.
African National Congress deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said Zuma had consulted the party's national officials about his decision to remove Nene and replace him with ANC backbencher Des van Rooyen.
"The president did consult the national officials of the ANC about six weeks ago on the request by Brics regional bank for a nominee from South Africa to lead the regional bank of Brics and he explained that it was his own view that one would need to send somebody with a high statute and Minister Nene at the time fitted what was appropriate for the bank," she told reporters in Johannesburg, following an extended National Working Committee meeting.
The ANC's top officials were also consulted about replacing Nene with Van Rooyen, she said.
"Obviously, when the name of Des van Rooyen was mentioned, we thought there would be an impact. He's young, we thought there would be questions asked, but what we didn't anticipate is the enormity of that impact."
The revelation that the ANC's top officials knew about the decision came to light four days after Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe told reporters that Cabinet ministers had not been made aware of the change in the finance portfolio.
At the briefing on Tuesday at Luthuli House, Radebe, who is a NWC member, again reiterated that Zuma had the constitutional prerogative to remove or appoint ministers.
Last Wednesday, in a late-night statement Zuma announced his decision to remove Nene as finance minister.
'There was never any talk of a recall'
This sent shockwaves through the country and resulted in the rand plummeting. It also sparked fears that the country's economy was moving closer towards "junk" status.
There were also calls for Zuma to be recalled as president of the country.
Four days after appointing Van Rooyen, Zuma announced in another late-night statement that he was replacing the finance minister again.
This time he appointed Pravin Gordhan who had been in the position during Zuma's previous administration.
Following this announcement, the rand started to recover.
Officials at Tuesday's briefing seemed to avoid the question of whether the party had ever discussed recalling the president.
But eventually ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said this had never been discussed.
"I can confirm that there was never any talk of a recall," he said.
In an attempt to defend Zuma, Duarte on Tuesday said it was the president himself who had approached the national officials about reconsidering Van Rooyen's appointment, which showed courage, she said.
"The national officials met with the president [on Sunday]... and the president himself offered that he wanted to make the change because of the impact of what none of us had anticipated.
"The courage to change it and the willingness was... there and it was done."
'It has been a difficult period'
She said this demonstrated bold leadership which brought certainty and assurance to the finance portfolio.
Since 1994 every time a finance minister was appointed it impacted the rand, Duarte added.
"I can only say this, that what is important is that the change has been made and that action has been taken to rectify what we believe really caused... a bloodbath in the economy.
"It has been a difficult period. We [are] not underestimating that [and] going forward it will be even more difficult."
NWC member and Small Business Minister Lindiwe Zulu added that officials had asked Zuma some hard questions about his decision, which he had answered, and that they had engaged in "robust" discussions about it.
"With such issues, we as a collective have the responsibility to ask ourselves hard questions."
She said the officials were satisfied with his answers and supported his decision.