Have the events of the past few weeks in South Africa provided the long-awaited tipping point for President Jacob Zuma’s dysfunctional presidency? His reckless sacking late last month of respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was driven not by any economic logic, but by narrow political and financial ambition. It has helped unite previously disparate forces against Zuma and brought closer the prospect—though not the guarantee—of his removal.
This emerging opposition goes well beyond the official opposition parties and now embraces a large section of the ruling African National Congress itself. Last year over 100 ANC veterans called for Zuma’s resignation, including some of the most revered figures in the movement that led South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. So low is Zuma’s stock in parts of the ANC that even before Gordhan’s sacking, South Africa’s president was discouraged from attending the funeral of Ahmed Kathrada, an anti-apartheid veteran and comrade of Nelson Mandela. It was an unprecedented snub for an ANC leader who would normally be expected to give the eulogy at such an occasion.
In the wake of Gordhan’s dismissal, things steadily worsened for Zuma as the deputy president of party and state, Cyril Ramaphosa, condemned the sacking as “totally unacceptable.” The ANC’s secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, complained that the party’s senior leadership had been informed but not consulted and was clearly troubled by the decision. The ANC’s own Integrity Commission, charged with overseeing the standards and behavior of party members, has demanded Zuma’s resignation.