Manuel Says South African Firing of Finance Minister Broke Trust

  • Removal of Nene was unforeseen by cabinet, Manuel Says
  • Zuma reinstated Gordhan as South Africa's finance minister

President Jacob Zuma’s dismissal of Nhlanhla Nene as South African finance minister without warning or explanation led to a “complete breakdown” in trust in the cabinet and the ruling African National Congress, former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel wrote in a letter to an executive committee member of the party.

“The trust is not broken only with cabinet,” Manuel said in the letter to Lindiwe Zulu that was published by the Johannesburg-based City Press newspaper. “It is also broken with the ANC, with the broader South African electorate, with the markets.”

Manuel, who was finance minister from 1996 to 2009, defended lobbying by business leaders that prompted Zuma to backtrack on his replacement of Nene with little-known lawmaker David van Rooyen, by reinstating Pravin Gordhan, 66, as finance minister four days later.

The rand slumped to a record against the dollar and the euro after Nene was fired and government bond yields climbed the most in seven years, while banking stocks plunged. Zulu, a member of the ANC’s executive committee and of the cabinet, defended Zuma and blamed the business community for manipulating the markets to make the president look bad, according to the Mail & Guardian.

“The breach of trust was not the first, but perhaps the last, straw that broke the camel’s back in the careless handling of a pivotal portfolio,” Manuel said.

Manuel and Tito Mboweni, who was the country’s central bank governor for a decade to November 2009, have been among the few ANC members to publicly criticize the cabinet reshuffle. Zuma handled the change of finance minister “very badly,” Mboweni said in a Bloomberg TV interview on Dec. 14.

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