The President has a constitutional right to appoint and dismiss cabinet ministers. However, his decision to dismiss Minister Nene and to appoint in his place an inexperienced and virtually unknown backbencher, David van Rooyen, is a matter for the deepest concern.

Unless Mr Van Rooyen shows unexpected courage and independence, Minister Nene’s dismissal is likely to open the floodgates to further profligate and unaffordable state expenditure. This will almost certainly lead, sooner or later, to a further downgrading by international ratings agencies to junk bond status. This, in turn, would sharply increase foreign borrowing costs for the both government and the private sector. It would lead to further reductions in foreign investment and would force many foreign investors to sell bonds because they would no longer comply with strict investment-grade criteria. This would result in the outflow of short-term capital on which South Africa depends to maintain its already parlous balance of payments.

The economic crisis that is likely to ensue will place further strain on the torn social fabric of a nation that is already contending with unacceptable levels of poverty, unemployment and civil unrest.

The President’s action shows a wild recklessness in his approach to the economy and state administration that is irreconcilable with the oath of office that he swore “to promote all that will advance the Republic, and to oppose all that may harm it” and to devote himself to the wellbeing of the Republic and all of its people.

Of even greater concern is the President’s track record of appointing to key state positions loyal cadres who are willing to promote his personal agenda rather than perform their duties with independence, probity and dedication to the public interest.

It is ironic that the President made his announcement on Minister Nene’s dismissal on the International Anti-Corruption Day.

Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation

Photo credit: GovernmentZA via / CC BY-ND