Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan returned to South Africa today after President Jacob Zuma recalled him from a trade trip, fuelling speculation of a dramatic political showdown.
President Zuma’s decision to order Gordhan back from Britain in the middle of an investment roadshow led to predictions that Gordhan may soon be sacked – a move likely to deepen sharp divisions in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.
The two have had an increasingly uneasy relationship in recent months.
President Zuma has vowed to enact “radical economic transformation” to tackle racial inequality and poverty, while Gordhan has fought to control spending and root out corruption.
“The president is my boss, so if he says come back, we come back. Let’s wait and see,” Gordhan said shortly after landing.
“We’re living in an uncertain world… But what South Africans should be assured is that there are many in the government who want to do the right thing,” he told the state-run SABC broadcaster.
Local media reported that Gordhan visited ANC party headquarters in Johannesburg shortly after his return.
The government has given no reason for Gordhan’s sudden recall.
Gordhan, who has the support of several other ministers, has been at loggerheads with President Zuma since last year, with many presidential loyalists calling for him to be ousted.
The fresh bout of political tension spooked foreign exchange markets, with the rand losing almost six per cent against the US dollar since the recall was announced Monday, with $1 buying 13 rand at 1300 GMT on Tuesday.
In December, 2015, Zuma unexpectedly sacked Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with an obscure lawmaker, triggering panic among investors and a sharp drop in the rand.
Just four days later, the internationally respected Gordhan was appointed to the role to calm markets.
Political manoeuvrings in South Africa may be put on hold as the country mourns the death of anti-apartheid ANC veteran Ahmed Kathrada.