President Jacob Zuma has said that the issues raised by the South
African Council of Churches (SACC), including the shock axing of finance
minister Nhlanhla Nene last week, also “worry” government.
Zuma made the brief remarks when addressing the media at the
conclusion of his meeting with the SACC today at the Union Buildings.
“Fortunately, all the issues that the SACC has raised are issues
that worry us as well with regard to the matters that affect the country
socially and otherwise. They also raised the issue that has worried the country
in the last few days with regard to the appointment of the minister of finance.
They raised the issue and discussed that issue,” said Zuma.
The SACC wrote to Zuma on Sunday expressing its “discomfort” over
Nene’s removal which saw the Rand plummeting to record lows against foreign
currencies and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange losing over R162 billion in
While the SACC welcomed Zuma’s reappointment of Pravin Gordhan as
finance minister – replacing David van Rooyen less than a week into his tenure –
the church leaders said they urged Zuma to put the interests of the country
first and to work on rebuilding public confidence in his administration.
SACC president Ziphozihle Siwa said: “We agreed that something
needs to be done to rebuild the public confidence in the presidency for the sake
of the country to ensure that the interests of the country (are) always taken as
Addressing the ANC KwaZulu-Natal conference last month, Zuma said
the ANC came first ahead of the country, comments which were heavily
Pressured to retract his statement, Zuma told Parliament in reply
to a question from Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota, that there was no need to
withdraw his statement as it did “not devalue the Constitution of the Republic
in any way”.
In its letter to Zuma, the SACC criticised the “seemingly abrupt
manner in which the Nene dismissal happened‚ on the basis of his redeployment to
another strategic position‚ which raises the question of whether such a position
and its needs can supersede the considerations for corporate South Africa
The church leaders also expressed concern that Nene’s shock removal
would result in the country being downgraded to “junk” status and would lead to
higher inflation which would affect the poor the hardest.
Zuma said they decided to meet again next year and hold regular
engagements on other matters including the SACC’s “The South Africa We Pray For”
“We’ve felt that this meeting is the beginning of a process of
engagement and we’ve agreed that we will meet next year wherein a number of
government departments will be present because many of the issues that are
raised touch on specific departments,” said Zuma. He added they were happy about
the “frank” discussion which took place during the two hour meeting.
The meeting was attended by SACC senior vice-president Reverend
Frank Chikane, vice-president Father Michael Lapsley, general secretary Bishop
Malusi Mpumlwana, chairperson of the National Church Leaders Forum Archbishop
Thabo Makgoba and Pretoria’s Catholic Archbishop William Slattery.
Siwa said they were satisfied with Zuma’s explanation about Nene’s
removal although neither Zuma nor Siwa elaborated on Zuma’s explanation.
Siwa commended Zuma’s response to the call by students for
university fees not to be increased next year and his response by reappointing
Gordhan to his old post.