Faith Muthambi defends Zuma, says Gordhan not a ‘super-minister’
TMG Digital | 2017-03-29 15:03:47.0
Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan pre-budget press conference at Parliament.
Image by: ESA ALEXANDER
Communications minister Faith Muthambi has criticised the media for speculating about the future of the country’s finance minister‚ saying there was a myth that Pravin Gordhan was a “defiant super-minister”.
Gordhan’s fate came into question on Monday‚ after President Jacob Zuma forced Gordhan to cancel an overseas trip to meet with business leaders in London. Gordhan was already abroad by the time the message reached him‚ but he was forced to cut the trip short.
Deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas was also instructed by the presidency to abandon plans for a similar trip to the US.
The cancelled international engagements follow a protracted standoff between Gordhan’s ministry and the president‚ who has accused the finance minister of blocking transformation.
But Muthambi said Zuma was merely exercising his constitutional prerogative.
“Overlooked in this hysteria is the obvious – ministers serve at the pleasure and behest of the president. This is a constitutional prerogative. And President Zuma’s action in summoning any minister falls within the realm of his constitutional role and powers‚” Muthambi wrote in article published on the Daily Maverick website.
The prospect of Gordhan’s departure from cabinet has worried investors‚ sending the rand to its weakest levels in 20 months. It has also heightened fears that Gordhan’s drive to root out corruption in state-owned enterprises is in jeopardy.
But Muthambi said Gordhan’s power should not be overestimated‚ nor should Zuma’s be underestimated.
“Arguably‚ having created a myth of a defiant and super-minister in Minister Gordhan‚ it must have been difficult for the media to come to terms with the fact that Minister Gordhan’s powers are limited‚” Muthambi said.
“Perhaps the infuriating aspect of the minister being summoned is that it provides proof that President Zuma is not the lame-duck president that the media has invested in projecting. In one fell swoop their investment in projecting an image of a powerless president went up in smoke.”
Muthambi decried the view that Zuma had been “thoroughly emasculated since an attempt to pass a motion of no confidence on his leadership by some in his party”.
“Indeed‚ our sovereignty and our freedom mean nothing if a democratically elected president‚ acting within powers vested in him by the Constitution‚ can be whipped into line by foreign entities. This is a message that the media is asking South Africans to come to terms with‚” she wrote.