Despite analysts saying that Zuma is at his most vulnerable since taking office in 2009, he told the UK’s Financial Times that the ANC is “united, absolutely united” behind him, and that he is not going anywhere.
“Zuma is going to go [on] as he has been doing,” he said.
In his first interview since taking the decision to fire Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister in December 2015, Zuma told the British paper that South Africa has a plan for success, amid major economic challenges.
The president vowed that he would take urgent “concrete action” to stabilise the country and prevent it from being downgraded to junk status, saying – vaguely – that a different approach was needed, and some things needed to be adjusted.
In his interview, the president acknowledging that the country could very well reach junk status, but he largely avoided taking any blame for the country’s current position.
South Africa lost as much as R500 billion between December and January, after Zuma fired Nene and replaced him with the unknown backbencher David van Rooyen. The move saw the rand reach its worst ever level against the dollar, while markets continue to play catch up.
Zuma quickly moved to replace van Rooyen with Pravin Gordhan, a former finance minister, a decision lauded by the ANC. However the damage had already been done economically.
Zuma again took the opportunity to defend Nene’s sacking, saying he was “absolutely correct” to do so. He claimed Nene had been nominated to head up the BRICS bank – a position Nene is yet to fill.
In January, the president said that reaction to his reshuffle in the finance department was “exaggerated”.
Nene has since resigned as an ANC MP.
Zuma placed focus on Gordhan’s upcoming budget speech, saying it needs to be “credible”. It follows his State of the Nation Address, which economists described as disappointing.
Gordhan faces the monumental task of restoring confidence in the South African economy, which has been hit hard by a global slowdown in emerging markets, a devastating drought, and less than ideal internal economic conditions.
Several economists have said that firing Zuma would be a good start to fixing the country.