Since South African President Jacob Zuma fired his finance minister Nhalnhla Nene, he’s received criticism in South Africa and beyond. The currency in South Africa fell close to a record low against the dollar yesterday morning as the markets processed the news. This firing comes as the South African economy is having trouble growing. Zuma said that Nene was being moved to “another strategic position”, although he didn’t elaborate on the reasons behind this, and Nene has been replaced by the relative unknown David van Rooyen.
Yesterday morning, the rand fell to below 15 to the dollar, and stock prices fell in Johannesburg with the start of trading. South Africa’s opposition leader, Mmusi Maimane, has criticised the sacking on Twitter, saying that Zuma has proven himself “incapable of making the right decisions”. Another opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, said that Zuma appointed Van Rooyen so that he won’t stand up to him. A cartoon called “Zuma’s wrecking ball” has been featured widely on social media, featuring a stone cast of the president’s head butting everything in sight. There is a general feeling among South Africans that Zuma dismissed a competent minister.
Although Nene was finance minister for just over 18 months, he had already been able to stand his ground on wasteful government expenditure. In his short tenure, Nene openly criticised wage increases for public servants, questioned the management of public utilities, opposed a national airline bailout and refused to approve the proposal to buy a new private jet for the president. Some have suggested that his removal was due to a lack of “political clout”. Last week, two credit ratings agencies downgraded their assessments of South Africa, while unemployment in the country is above 25%.
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