The South African economy has not functioned properly under the former ministers who got sacked during the Cabinet reshuffle at the end of March this year, president Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
During a parliamentary question and answer session, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane asked Zuma if he agreed that the economy is in the doldrums due to his “recycling of finance ministers”, which had caused considerable policy and leadership uncertainty.
On March 31, Zuma removed Pravin Gordhan as finance minister along with his deputy Mcebisi Jonas, as well as former energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and Derek Hanekom as tourism minister from their positions among others.
In the immediate aftermath of the reshuffle, the rand lost 11% versus the US dollar, but has regained some value in the following months.
Apart from currency volatility, South Africa’s sovereign credit rating was also downgraded to junk status by ratings agencies Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, which both cited the change in ministers as one of their reasons for cutting South Africa’s credit rating.
Zuma on Thursday maintained that South Africa’s economic woes should be attributed to low global growth and not domestic factors alone.
“There is in this country a situation that is found globally,” Zuma told members of Parliament. “There are many countries in difficulty – and some are worse than South Africa. At a certain point South Africa performed even better (than other economies).
“It’s bad in all countries, even in those where ministers haven’t been changed. You can’t pin down the economic position in South Africa to the removal of a minister. In other countries, economies are down without removing ministers. I’m correcting you,” Zuma told Maimane.
“The ministers may have been changed, but the (economic) situation is what it is because of global circumstances,” he continued.
He said it’s not the truth that “once a minister is changed then the economy goes down”.
“The economy has not been functioning with those ministers in place. It’s not a magic wand that once you remove a minister the economy goes down.”