'Wounded leopard' Zuma has to pounce on fiscus now - political analyst

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma finds himself in a wounded leopard scenario and to survive he and his supporters must gain access to the country’s fiscus. It would therefore make sense to replace Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan with a loyalist such as former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe. 

This is the view of André Duvenhage, political analyst and lecturer in political studies at the North-West University. 

Speaking to Fin24 by phone, Duvenhage said Zuma is particularly dangerous because of his timing. “In order to gain control of the country’s finances he’ll have to get rid of the finance minister before the delivery of the Budget Speech on February 22. I expect it will happen shortly after the State of the Nation Address (on February 9).” 

On Friday the rand weakened significantly against the dollar, following a Bloomberg report that Zuma intends to reshuffle the Cabinet to get rid of his detractors. 

READ: Rand tanks on Zuma's defiance comment 

The names of Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi were mentioned in the report. 

According to a report in the Sunday Times, Gordhan is also at risk of being replaced by Molefe, who will purportedly be sworn in as a MP in due course. 

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe stopped short of rubbishing reports of Molefe's deployment to Parliament.

At a media conference on Monday following the ANC’s lekgotla over the weekend, Mantashe went to great lengths to explain how MPs are deployed to Parliament. 

“You don’t just wake up and put Brian Molefe on the parliamentary list. It doesn’t work that way,” Mantashe said at the press briefing.

Duvenhage, however, points out that changing members of Cabinet is Zuma's prerogative as president of the country. "He can shuffle the Cabinet with great ease and he'll have the support of ministers in the security cluster." 

It's not the first time that rumours of Gordhan's replacement are doing the rounds. The finance minister has been on a collision course with Zuma since his reappointment in the position following Nhlanhla Nene's surprise sacking late in 2015. 

Shortly before he was due to deliver the 2016 budget in February last year, Gordhan received a list of 27 questions in a letter from Hawks boss Lieutenant General Berning Ntlemeza. At the time, Gordhan maintained that there were no grounds on which he should be investigated. 

READ: The 27 questions the Hawks sent to Gordhan 

In October, there was another attempt to derail Gordhan, days before his delivery of the medium-term budget policy statement when National Prosecuring Agency boss Shaun Abrahams summoned him to appear in court on charges of fraud. The charges were later withdrawn. 

Duvenhage said it would make “absolute sense” to reshuffle his cabinet before the imminent budget vote, as he needs to do “damage control” in light of the lack of economic transformation. 

“The president has already given a speech to this effect to members of the National Executive Committee a while ago,” Duvenhage said. The groundwork has therefore been laid. 

READ: Zuma cracks the whip 

Besides Hanekom, Motsoaledi and Nxesi, Zuma may also rid the Cabinet of members of the SACP, such as Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel who have also fallen out of favour. 

A cabinet reshuffle will also enable Zuma to make space for Nkosasana Dlamini-Zuma’s return to the executive, paving the way for her to succeed him as ANC president when the ruling party elects a new leadership in December. 

Although the ANC has barred succession talks, the ANC Women’s League voiced its support for a Dlamini-Zuma presidency, while Zuma himself said in a radio interview that the time was ripe for a woman president. 

There were reports that Zuma could give the finance ministry to Dlamini-Zuma, but Duvenhage is of the view that it would not be the right “fit”. 

An appointment such as Molefe to the position, however, would be a more “safe” choice, Duvenhage said. 

At 16:55 on Monday the rand traded at R13.56/$, stronger from its intra-day high of R13.68, but significantly weaker than levels seen in the previous week. 

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