Indian-origin politician becomes S Africa's Finance Minister

Indian-origin politician becomes S Africa's Finance Minister

Indian-origin politician becomes S Africa's Finance Minister

Veteran Indian-origin politician Pravin Gordhan has been appointed South Africa's new Finance Minister by President Jacob Zuma who fired two of his predecessors within a week amid a raging economic turmoil in Africa's second-largest economy.

66-year-old Gordhan's appointment comes after a huge controversy amid mounting pressure on Zuma to quit after he dismissed Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister, without giving reasons, drawing widespread criticism even from within the ranks of his own African National Congress.

He replaced Nene with the little known David van Rooyen. The country's currency, the Rand, plummeted to new lows as the news broke.

Credit agency Fitch downgraded South Africa on December 4, leaving the continent's most sophisticated economy just one notch above junk status.

Later, Zuma tried to bring about some calm by saying that Nene had been removed because he was in line for a top position at the new BRICS Bank.

Gordhan's appointment sent the Rand up almost 5 per cent last night, but failed to quell a tide of criticism of the president. Gordhan was widely respected when he served as South Africa's finance minister from 2009 until 2014.

In a statement yesterday, the president said after replacing Nene he had "received many representations to reconsider my decision". "As a democratic government, we emphasise the importance of listening to the people and to respond to their views," Zuma said.

"Gordhan will return to a portfolio that he had held proficiently during the fourth administration," the statement said. Gordhan's current position as Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, where he was overseeing local government, will be taken over by Van Rooyen, who was effectively Finance Minister for just four days.

Zuma assigned Gordhan, who has also served with distinction as the Commissioner of the South African Revenue Services before excelling as Minister of Finance, with several tasks to address the country's failing economy.

"(Gordhan) will lead government again in the interest of stimulating more inclusive growth and accelerated job creation while continuing the work of ensuring that our debt is stabilised over the medium term," Zuma said.

Gordhan would also be required to ensure fiscal discipline in government spending and work with the financial sector to bring about stability. South African economy has been under strain recently but is still the second-largest economy in Africa behind Nigeria.

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