Billionaire former Cabinet minister Tokyo Sexwale has told the BBC he hoped that the extraordinary events of the week in which South African President Jacob twice replaced his finance minister had taught politicians not to toy with the financial markets.
“We are shell shocked here — that within four days you have three finance ministers. It is just simply not on and I can see the president has backtracked to correct himself from that,” Sexwale, who was fired by Zuma in 2013 after challenging him for the leadership of the ANC, tells BBC’s Hardtalk on a show to be broadcast on Tuesday night.
“The finance minister position is a very highly sensitive one. I should know that having operated in the markets. It’s not good for our image but I hope all this will be behind us when Minister Pravin Gordhan -– in whom I have a lot of confidence – I’ve served with him in cabinet, when he takes up the reins and I can see the currency in South Africa has rebounded, it’s coming back because it is trying to correct the mistake of last week which was made in changing finance ministers so suddenly.”
Asked by presenter Zeinab Badawi whether the pounding of the local currency after Zuma axed Nhlanla Nene from the finance portfolio did not indicate that the president’s grip on power was slipping, Sexwale did not answer directly but said there had been a hard lesson to learn.
“If I were to put my two pence in this, I’ll say that it’s important that politicians should understand before they take decisions the consequences of some of the decisions because particularly in the markets, you take a decision of course it knocks off the country, you fall off your stool, the debt rises, inflation and so on. So I would hope and trust that this episode of the last four days becomes a lesson that people should learn. You don’t tinker with the markets that easily, I hope we’ve learnt from this.”
Zuma replaced his preferred choice for finance minister, David van Rooyen, with veteran Pravin Gordhan on Sunday, after the financial sector and leaders of the governing alliance had lobbied him at the weekend to move to contain the damage to the economy.