Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas were expected to be among those removed or moved to other portfolios.
Zuma met ministers at his official residence Mahlambandlovu in Pretoria after earlier summonsing the top five ANC leaders at short notice at 6.30pm.
By 9.30pm he had delivered the news: A cabinet bloodbath was about to unfold.
As news of the reshuffle broke, the rand lost ground and by 10:30pm was trading at R13.25 to the dollar.
The reshuffle comes three days after Zuma told the ANC top five that he wanted to get rid of Gordhan and Jonas.
He was armed with an intelligence report claiming Gordhan was conspiring with overseas investors to topple him.
His plan caused ructions with at least three members of the ANC’s top six leaders refusing to support Gordhan’s axing‚ reports said.
Earlier yesterday‚ reports emerged that Zuma was facing a rebellion within his party‚ with the Bloomberg news agency quoting sources as saying that about 12 of his ministers were considering resigning and then fighting for his removal.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and some deputy ministers might also resign‚ Bloomberg said.
The “Operation Checkmate” intelligence report‚ which purports to show that Gordhan planned to meet UK and US figures who want to overthrow the government‚ has also been rubbished by opposition political parties.
EFF leader Julius Malema likened the report to the work of a “child in early childhood development classes”.
The salvoes against Zuma yesterday began with the SA Communist Party denouncing “growing abuse of state security organs and their meddling in daily political life”.
The DA said it would push for a vote of no confidence in Zuma and the EFF filed papers in the Constitutional Court asking that the court order parliament to take disciplinary action against Zuma for breaking his oath of office.
The Constitutional Court last year found that Zuma failed to uphold‚ defend and respect the constitution in disregarding Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings on the refurbishment of his Nkandla home at taxpayers’ expense.
Malema said his party wanted the court to force parliament to institute action against Zuma.
“If the court can become involved in matters like the SA Social Security Agency debacle then it can force parliament to carry out its constitutional mandate.
“We ask that the court orders parliament to carry out its constitutional duties.”
He said disciplinary proceedings were necessary to get Zuma to account to all South Africans.
“Once that process is started we parliamentarians will remove Zuma through a vote of no confidence.”
Section 89 of the constitution says that a president can be removed by the National Assembly with a two-thirds majority vote if found to have violated the constitution. A president can also be removed for misconduct or incapacity.
SACP second deputy secretary Solly Mapaila denounced “gangsterism” within the state and said certain “rogue elements” kept themselves busy with “irrelevant” things to “hype up the president’s decisions”.
“Zuma informed us of his intention to effect a cabinet reshuffle‚ replacing both the minister and deputy minister of finance.
“We objected‚” Mapaila said.
Mapaila described Zuma’s “Operation Checkmate” report as “nonsense”.
“How can you believe that a minister with a delegation of business and trade union leaders organised an investment trip to go and look for people to invest in our country … is a trip against the country?”
Qaanitah Hunter‚ Graeme Hosken‚ Kyle Cowan And Neo Goba – TimesLIVE