The economy and political future of South Africa remain uncertain as embattled South African president and African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma faces a looming no confidence vote in parliament that could lead to his early ouster.
The latest controversy came in the wake of a dramatic and generally unwanted cabinet shuffle by Zuma back in late March, during which he fired his popular former finance minister, Pravin Gordhan.
In a strange twist of circumstance, Zuma chose to replace Gordhan with the interior minister, Malusi Gigaba, who holds zero practical financial or business experience. This move accompanies several other changes by Zuma to various ministries, but has been the most controversial by far.
Zuma announced his plan was meant to bring in new talent, including women, to help move the country forward, and his cabinet shuffle was intended to provoke great socioeconomic change for the country.
South Africa is now facing devaluation of its currency as a result of Zuma’s move, with more than one international credit rating agency having downgraded South Africa’s credit rating to junk status.
The ANC, an organization formed in the early 20th century with the purpose to unite Africa under a singular body of rules and rights, has withstood the impact of major issues in the past, including apartheid. But the party is now increasingly divisive as some remain loyal to Zuma while others call for his dismissal.
Offering some perspective on possible motivations on Zuma’s decision, PSU sophomore Ethan Ashcraft, a political science major, said Gordhan’s public and party support could have potentially been an obstacle to passing certain reforms for Zuma. “If you put in someone that doesn’t have experience, you can use them as a puppet,” Ashcraft said. “If Zuma’s reforms pass and later backfire, he can blame the new financial minister [who] doesn’t have the popular support Gordhan does.”
Replacing him, however, could be a difficult task. Zuma has already survived four previous no confidence votes in parliament. The political opposition to Zuma proposed the upcoming vote should be held in a secret ballot, while others argue that this gives scorned politicians the ability to turn against the president with no consequence.
Zuma has led the ANC since 2007, but will likely be voted out in December when the party convenes for its elective conference. Zuma’s presidential term will end in 2019. Zuma has already suggested he would be in support of his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, following in his footsteps as the next leader of the ANC.