Johannesburg (AFP) – Pravin Gordhan, who was sacked late Thursday, is liked and admired by many ordinary South Africans — an unusual achievement for any finance minister.
But Zuma’s desire to appoint a loyalist to the treasury ultimately cost Gordhan his portfolio, which he had also held from 2009 to 2014.
Gordhan’s name alone stabilised the markets which had been gripped by panic after Des Van Rooyen’s surprise appointment in 2015.
The local rand currency gradually recovered as Gordhan stressed his intention to rein in spending, tackle graft and reduce the budget deficit.
But his sacking may now persuade investors and voters that South Africa is heading towards fiscal and political instability.
Gordhan last year faced fraud charges that were criticised as a move to oust him by Zuma’s associates.
– Struggle credentials –
Born in the port city of Durban in 1949, Gordhan’s political life began as a pharmacy student at the University of Durban-Westville, an Indians-only institution established during white-minority rule.
Throughout the 1980s, Gordhan was repeatedly arrested for his political activities.
He then played a pivotal role in the talks that steered South Africa towards its first democratic elections in 1994, before becoming an ANC member of parliament.
Gordhan was also widely praised for overhauling the tax system, tripling the country’s tax haul from 185 billion rand in 1999 to 558 billion rand in 2009.
“We hope more and more South Africans would make it clear that our country is not for sale.”