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Crunch Time for South Africa and the ANC

Walter Russell Mead

South African President Jacob Zuma has ousted his independent finance minister, as part of a massive cabinet reshuffle that has many in his own party crying foul. The Wall Street Journal reports:

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress lurched deeper into crisis on Friday as top party officials and coalition allies rebelled against President Jacob Zuma’s decision to fire his popular finance minister, deepening rifts in the liberation movement that has ruled Africa’s most industrialized economy since 1994. […]

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a prime contender to succeed Mr. Zuma as ANC leader, said he and other senior party officials had objected to Mr. Gordhan’s dismissal and that it was unacceptable. […]

The late night cabinet overhaul, which saw 10 ministers and 10 deputy ministers moved or ousted, packed the government with allies of Mr. Zuma. It comes just months before the ANC convenes its elective conference in December to choose Mr. Zuma’s successor as party leader.

Given Zuma’s record and the record of his new finance minister—a pliant loyalist who has repeatedly defended Zuma against well-established charges of corruption—this looks like a naked attempt by Zuma to enrich himself at his country and his party’s expense, as the end of his time in office looms. Much of the ANC leadership is appalled by this, as well they should be. Whether the ANC has the institutional power to force Zuma’s hands out of the cookie jar will tell us a lot about the future of South Africa, and even more about the future of the ANC.

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