Gigaba notes 'mutual suspicion'

2017-04-01 19:12

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Johannesburg - South Africa's new finance minister said on Saturday he is aware of the "climate of sharp disagreement and mutual suspicion" as his predecessor's firing deepens a split in the country's ruling party.

Malusi Gigaba briefed the media a day after President Jacob Zuma fired the widely respected Pravin Gordhan and set off an outcry by many in the ruling ANC and opposition parties.

The currency of one of Africa's biggest economies has slipped amid concerns about corruption at top levels of government. Many South Africans are now concerned that the economy could be downgraded to junk status by credit ratings agencies.

Radical economic transformation

The new finance minister said he is committed to maintaining an investment-grade credit rating for South Africa and would be talking with ratings agencies soon. He promised "radical economic transformation" for the country.

Gigaba also said he will not "betray our people" by allowing special interests to hurt the public good. His role, he said, is to "restore calm." The former home affairs minister and ex-head of the ruling party's youth league has little economic experience but has agreed to meet with Gordhan.

Fitch Ratings has predicted that the reshuffle will raise tensions within the ruling party and could weaken public finances and governance standards.

The firing of Gordhan, who was seen as a bulwark against perceived efforts to raid state coffers for personal gain, is another blow to an economy that grew just 0.5% last year and has an unemployment rate of around 27%.

The reshuffle of 10 of the country's 35 ministers deepened shock in South Africa, whose pride in its democratic credentials, forged in the struggle against apartheid, has been diminished over the years by scandals around Zuma. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa criticised Gordhan's firing in a rare public rebuke of the president.

The ANC lost control of key metropolitan areas in local elections last year, partly because of dissatisfaction with Zuma.

While the party's reputation as the main movement against apartheid has been tainted, it is still seen as the front-runner ahead of general elections in 2019.

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  malusi gigaba  |  pravin gor­dhan  |  cabinet reshuffle

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