The outcry over South African President Jacob Zuma’s decision to replace Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan and reorder his cabinet – a move shrouded in midnight secrecy – has been amplified by its juxtaposition with the death of longtime African National Congress leader Ahmed Kathrada.
Zuma’s decision to replace Gordhan with Malusi Gigaba sparked outrage across the political spectrum, and among many South African citizens reeling from corruption investigations, no-confidence votes, and the overall financial and ethical straits amid the government’s political crisis.
But Zuma’s cancellation without warning of a Saturday memorial service in Soweto, planned by the ANC president for Kathrada, the longtime confidante of Nelson Mandela and national human rights leader, prompted more outrage from the Democratic Alliance (DA) and other opposition parties as well as from within the ANC.
Perhaps none was more eloquent than that of Kathrada’s wife, Barbara Hogan, during a Friday press conference to announce – among other responses – an alternative memorial service for her husband.
“Let me say that last night, when the news began to filter through, about the dastardly deeds that were being done in dark corners,” she said, “many of us in the family began to have second doubts whether we would want a commemoration under the auspices of a president who has clearly gone rogue.”
Zuma’s own party is rejecting him, Hogan said, reminding her listeners that a reluctant Kathrada himself penned a letter last year appealing to Zuma to step down for the good of the nation.
If this is not a defining moment for South Africa, Hogan said, nothing ever will be.
“Party loyalty is important, but when we are in as grave a situation as we are in today, the Constitution that we love and fought for, must take precedence over any lingering notion that party loyalty is above anything,” Hogan said.
The DA said it plans an April 7 march on ANC headquarters to protest Zuma’s moves and echo Hogan’s remark that South Africa is not for sale.
“With each passing day and particularly in the last 24 hours it is as clear as day that Zuma no longer cares for South Africa’s democracy, one that so many gave their lives and sacrificed so much for, including Uncle Kathy,” said DA MP and national spokesman Phumzile Van Damme in a statement.
Image: Presidency RSA