Too late for reconciliation; South Africans want Zuma out

The South African rand is recovering. Markets responded favourably to President Jacob Zuma’s appointment of Pravin Gordhan as finance minister. But South Africans are not impressed; they have had enough of their leader and they want Zuma out. Today is the day of reconciliation in South Africa.

Last weekend had seen the hashtag #ZumaMustFall trend on twitter as thousands signed a petition to say they do not want Zuma anymore. The president rescinded his decision to appoint relatively unknown David van Rooyen as Nhlanhla Nene’s replacement after the infamous firing of the latter. He called on erstwhile minister Gordhan to come back and help revive the markets which went berserk after Rooyen was named head of treasury. It worked. South African assets gained and local markets rallied. But the damage Zuma had done to his image and the economy, to South Africans, was irredeemable. The only way to pay is to step down.

Thousands of protesters, therefore, hit the streets on Wednesday, demanding that the president step down. They blamed him for a week of financial turmoil caused by his appointment of an ‘unworthy’ finance minister.

South Africans gathered in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria and Johannesburg, bearing placards with various inscriptions. They all have a common message; “Zuma must fall”.

One of the protesters who spoke to Reuters said the only reason the ruling African National Congress (ANC) had not recalled President Zuma despite all he has done wrong is because they “are sharing the money….” The protester, 28-year-old Thembani Nyandeni said he had been unemployed for the past four years.

Gordhan’s appointment may be enough to steer South Africa’s economy back to a safer place ahead of the new year, but he has only had two days of work as today is a public holiday — The Day of Reconciliation, aimed at fostering reconciliation and national unity.

Moody’s Investors Service would not also wait for the new minister to stabilize things; the rating agency cut its outlook on South Africa to “negative” from “stable” on Tuesday. One of Moody’s reasons was increasing political pressures. This continued on Wednesday with the protests.