Zuma Said to Survive Calls to Quit Ruling South Africa's ANC

  • ANC committee meeting chides officials for criticizing Zuma
  • Rand weakens against dollar after news of Zuma’s fightback

South Africa's Zuma Said Surviving Calls to Resign

South African President Jacob Zuma survived calls to resign by members of the ruling party following his decision to fire his finance minister and stack the cabinet with loyalists, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The rand reversed earlier gains.

At a Tuesday meeting in Johannesburg of the ANC’s National Working Committee, Zuma rejected accusations that he hadn’t consulted adequately before a cabinet reshuffle that included the removal of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and received some support from members of the party’s so-called Top 6 officials, the people said, asking not to be identified because a public statement hasn’t been made.

The decision heightens chances that Zuma will survive an opposition-sponsored vote of no confidence in parliament if the leadership of the National Assembly allows it to go ahead. It came in the face of widespread criticism of Zuma’s cabinet changes that prompted S&P Global Ratings to downgrade the nation’s credit rating to junk and weakened the rand.

Before the meeting, the president drew rare public criticism from Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and other senior party members, including ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe and Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize, who publicly questioned the manner in which the cabinet changes were handled. Ramaphosa had called Zuma’s reasons for firing Gordhan “unacceptable.”

Resignation Calls

The meeting also slammed the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the nation’s biggest labor federation, and the South African Communist party, both allies of the ANC that called for Zuma to resign. The ANC is concerned about the breakdown in the relationship with its allies, Mantashe told reporters Wednesday in Johannesburg.

A breakdown in the relationship between Zuma and Gordhan, who had feuded over the affordability of building nuclear power plants and the management of state-owned companies, led to the cabinet reshuffle, Mantashe said.

“Zuma would not carry out a controversial cabinet reshuffle such as this one without lining up his support within the party to push back against the backlash,” Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, a Johannesburg-based research group, said by phone on Wednesday. “Even if you have those members speaking openly against him, the balance is such that he’s still quite firm within the party.”

The rand weakened 1.1 percent to 13.7707 per dollar as of 11:22 a.m. in Johannesburg after the report, reversing an earlier gain of as much as 1.1 percent. Yields on government’s benchmark rand bond due December 2026 rose 5 basis points to 8.96 percent.

Read more on Zuma’s chances of political survival

While Zuma has survived a series of corruption scandals and presided over the party’s worst-electoral performance since the end of apartheid in 1994 in municipal elections in August, the majority of ANC officials have stuck by him.

With Zuma scheduled to step down as party leader in December and as the nation’s president in 2019, many ANC officials may believe it’s not the time to remove him, said Daryl Glaser, a political science professor at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

“The ANC is not going to go into the next election under Zuma, and I guess there will be some in the ANC who think that if they can just sit it out until the elective conference or until the next election in 2019, then the ANC can hold on electorally under new leadership,” he said.

— With assistance by Gordon Bell, and Amogelang Mbatha

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