Zuma says reaction to former South African finance minister Nene’s sack was exaggerated

When South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma sacked Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister last December, the rand fell and South Africans asked for the president’s resignation making him rescind his decision to appoint an unknown David van Rooyen as Nene’s replacement. Now that the heat has gone down, he says reaction to his decision was exaggerated.

“I think there was an exaggeration in terms of the reaction,” Zuma told South Africa’s eNCA television in an interview aired on Sunday. However, he did not give details of what he met.

Following the appointment of Rooyen to replace Nene who was believed to have been sacked for not being Zuma’s puppet, investor confidence in South Africa’s economy dipped and the currency lost more value. The rand fell by as much as 5.4 percent against the dollar to hit a record low of 15.3857 after Zuma’s announcement of Nene’s sack and Rooyen’s appointment. Social media was awash with #ZumaMustFall as South Africans asked their president to step down. The president made a u-turn and named another Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, whose arrival was welcomed by the markets. Investor confidence returned and the rand gained upon his announcement as minister. Zuma’s change of heart was seen as the saving grace for South Africa which seemed to be plunging deeper into more economic and political troubles with his infamous decision.

However, President Zuma thinks the noise, the protests, the blames were uncalled for. He said the rand did not fall because of Nene’s sack.

“The rand had been going down when Nene was there, it had been going down for months and months,” he said in the interview.

“… there is no single person that can collapse a department, particularly a department like the Treasury,” said Zuma. “There was an overreaction to the decision. It’s not like breaking the economy.”