The Presidency has slammed the “toxic narrative” being painted that president Jacob Zuma is at war with finance minister Pravin Gordhan for control over National Treasury.
As far as the presidency is concerned, as president of the country, Zuma already controls Treasury, making the so-called “war” with Gordhan a work of fiction.
“The President controls all government departments including the National Treasury, as the head of government, and by virtue of the fact he appoints Ministers and they report to him,” the presidency said on Friday.
“All government departments also report to the President via their respective Ministers. It is therefore absurd to say that the President would be engaged in a struggle to control a government department that he already controls, and also when he actually controls the whole of government.”
“The Presidency trusts that the information peddlers will allow South Africa the space to focus on this national imperative and refrain from the perpetual spreading of false rumours,” it said.
The Zuma vs Gordhan story
The narrative of the war between Zuma and Gordhan has not only been pushed through the media, but also through economists and political insiders which have spoken out on behind-the-scenes dealings in government.
It is widely believed that, while the president may hold the ultimate office which governs over Treasury and other government departments – he isn’t free to do as he pleases.
This was tested and played out in December 2015, when the president unexpectedly fired former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, replacing him with his personal choice of Des van Rooyen – a then unknown ANC back-bencher.
The move sent the South African economy crashing, forcing Zuma to re-appoint Gordhan – a decision he has made clear was not his own, but rather at the request of senior officials.
Like Nene, Gordhan has been tasked with securing the South African economy from wasteful spending, and putting a cap on capital flowing freely from Treasury into the hands of SOEs and other groups looking to do business with the country.
Since Gordhan’s appointment, however, he and the president have publicly clashed on matters of finance – most notably with regards to government spending and the loose reins on state-owned companies like SAA.
The minister is also scrutinising the country’s nuclear plans – expected to cost the economy as much as R1 trillion – which government is set on pursuing no matter what.
However, all departments have gone to great lengths to dismiss speculation that there is any move against the minister.