Zuma speaks on reshuffle and economy‚ but remains mum on downgrade

Although South Africa’s economy is “critically” important to President Jacob Zuma‚ who was speaking in Pretoria on Tuesday‚ he made no mention of the country’s economic downgrade.

Instead‚ he refused to answer journalists’ questions on the issue‚ with his bodyguards strong-arming reporters and pushing them away from him.

President Jacob Zuma

Zuma was speaking at the official launch of Africa’s first locally designed locomotive at Transnet’s engineering yard.

South Africa’s economy was downgraded by Standard and Poor’s rating agency on Monday to junk status.

Zuma thanked former finance minister‚ Pravin Gordhan‚ and his deputy‚ Mcebisi Jonas for their hard work and their contribution to a smooth handover to their replacements.

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He fired the two last week and replaced them with Malusi Gigaba‚ as finance minister‚ and Sifiso Buthelezi as deputy finance minister.

Their firing and the reshuffle of Zuma’s cabinet has led to public outrage‚ with many within the ANC‚ including members of the top six‚ publicly speaking out against Zuma and calling for his axing.

Zuma said‚ “For over a decade South Africa has grappled with the global economic downturn“.

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“We must work hard to promote economic trade among African countries and boost economic development.”

Turning to the reshuffle‚ the president said‚ “We expect the changes to add renewed energy into cabinet and the executive as a whole“.

“We are proud of having added many young ministers which is an investment in the future. If we don’t enable young MPs to gain experience now‚ we may battle with experience at a later stage in the national executive.”

Zuma praised Gordhan’s work in treasury and said that Gigaba would continue the good work.

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This was after he told the nation that he had fired Gordhan and Jonas for plotting with international backers to overthrow the country and the economy.

“While political leadership has changed‚ government policy has not. Government will remain committed to a measured fiscal policy which stabilises the rise in public debt‚” said Zuma.

He assured the country that there was unity in the treasury and financial portfolios.

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“A stable treasury and financial portfolio are critical for the economy. The new finance minister and his deputy will prioritorise stability in both treasury and the finance portfolio.”

Zuma said more important than ever was that the country unite and work together‚ “especially in light of the current socio-economic challenges we face“.

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He assured the private sector and international community that they would continue to work with the country’s partners.

“We will reach out to the international community to assure them that South Africa is stable. We assure South Africans government will do everything t promote cohesion.

“We know that there have been public statements on disagreements… which demoralises people. There are serious weaknesses which we will attend to with renewed vigour.” — Tiso Black Star Group/The Times

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