South Africa’s ruling party leaders split over Gordhan’s fate

South Africa‘s ruling African National Congress party is split at the top over whether Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan should be sacked, sources said on Wednesday.

President Jacob Zuma wants to replace Gordhan and has the support of party Chairwoman Baleka Mbete and Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte, the sources said.

But Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe and Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize want Gordhan to remain and have expressed their opinion to Zuma, according to the sources.

The rift at the top comes amid party divisions over the finance ministers plans to rein in spending as the economy stagnates, analysts say.

While Zuma does not need the backing of the top six ANC members to fire ministers, open criticism might undermine his own position within the party.

“The three have told Zuma he’s making a mistake,” a senior party source told Reuters.

As Gordhan’s future hung in the balance, more volatile trading in the rand currency underlined his reputation as an emblem of South Africa‘s stability among investors.

Local assets have been under pressure since Monday when Zuma ordered Gordhan to abandon an investor roadshow in Britain and fly home. Zuma has not given a reason for the recall.

The rand extended losses early on Wednesday as speculation grew Zuma would sack Gordhan after the funeral of anti-apartheid hero Ahmed Kathrada and a cabinet meeting due in the afternoon. It later strengthened against the dollar in response to the first media reports that the party’s leadership was split over his fate. The currency then weakened as much as 0.5 percent.

After attending Kathrada’s funeral, Gordhan said that he will “open a new chapter” of his life if speculation that Zuma is set to sack him possibly later in the day proves correct.

“You deal with it in a professional way … and if one is told one’s services are not required any longer, that’s the end of one chapter, and we open a new chapter,” he said.

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