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South Africa’s President Fires Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s president has replaced his finance minister in an expected move that had spooked investors this week and sent the country’s currency tumbling.

President Jacob G. Zuma’s replacement of his finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, was announced early Friday, and it comes as part of a cabinet shuffle that changes 10 of the country’s 35 ministers.

Pressure has been growing on Mr. Zuma to step down after he recalled Mr. Gordhan, who has a strong reputation as a bulwark against corruption, from a trade trip in London earlier this week. The president’s recall of Mr. Gordhan caused South Africa’s currency, the rand, to lose nearly 5 percent, another blow to the country’s economy, which has stalled amid high unemployment.

Many South Africans had viewed Mr. Gordhan as a responsible steward of an economy facing possible credit rating downgrades.

Frustration has been growing with Mr. Zuma after numerous allegations of corruption. South Africa’s two main opposition parties took aim at the president on Thursday, with one appealing to the country’s highest court to order impeachment proceedings and the other announcing that it would call for a vote of no confidence in Mr. Zuma.

On Wednesday, Mr. Gordhan inspired a standing ovation at the funeral of one of South Africa’s leading anti-apartheid activists as longtime leaders of the governing African National Congress, the country’s former liberation movement, called for Mr. Zuma to step down.

Mr. Zuma has selected Malusi Gigaba, a former minister of home affairs, as Mr. Gordhan’s replacement, a statement from the president’s office said.

The changes were made “in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness,” the statement said.

But even allies of the governing party had warned against replacing Mr. Gordhan. Solly Mapaila, deputy general secretary of the South African Communist Party, which is in an alliance with the A.N.C., warned Thursday that the party’s seven cabinet members would resign if Mr. Zuma fired the finance minister.

The cabinet shuffle comes as calls for Mr. Zuma to resign increase.

“Zuma has bowed to the whims of those who determined to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor & jobless,” the country’s the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said in a message posted on Twitter after the announcement. The party on Thursday said it would call for a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

Also Thursday, the Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party applied to the country’s highest court to order Parliament to begin impeachment proceedings against the president for lying to the legislative body.

The E.F.F. called it “a last resort” after Parliament, which is dominated by the A.N.C., had failed in its duty to hold the president accountable, said the party’s leader, Julius Malema.

Mr. Zuma in November survived an attempt by senior party members to oust him as president. Last year, South Africa’s highest court found that Mr. Zuma had violated his oath of office by refusing to abide by an order to pay back some of the millions of dollars in public money spent on upgrading his rural home.

Source: NYT > World

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