South Africa’s outgoing Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Friday an intelligence report President Jacob Zuma used as justification to fire him was “absolute nonsense”.
Mr. Gordhan also said during a televised press conference in Pretoria that he had been “sickened” by allegations that he had secret meetings to undermine the government during an investor roadshow abroad.
In a similar vein, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday he told Mr. Zuma that he disagreed with his decision to sack Gordhan.
“I told the President so, that I would not agree with him on his reasoning to remove the minister of finance,” Mr. Ramaphosa told reporters.
However, Mr. Ramaphosa also told public broadcaster SABC TV that the government would remain stable after the sacking of Mr. Gordhan and would tell ratings agencies that its institutions were strong.
Mr. Zuma’s midnight sacking of his finance minister shook South African financial markets and increased the chances of costly downgrades to its investment grade sovereign ratings.
Weak economic growth and tensions within the ruling party African National Congress (ANC) have put South Africa’s investment grade credit rating at risk.
The rand fell as much as 1.7 per cent following the report, while bonds weakened sharply.
Banking shares on the Johannesburg bourse fell more than two per cent.
A government source said: “they were told last night or this morning to come back… the presidency did not give permission for the trip.”
The president’s office could not be reached for comment.
Africa’s most industrialised economy escaped being downgraded to junk status last year.
S and P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings both rank the sovereign one level above junk, while Moody’s puts it two notches higher.
Moody’s, which put South Africa on negative watch in its latest review, is due to revisit that on April 7, followed by S and P at the beginning of June.
Mr. Gordhan’s team on the trip to London, Boston and New York included deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and Treasury director general Lungisa Fuzile, as well as business executives and union leaders.