Zuma: SA’s concerns also worry government

2015-12-15 16:28

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 market capitalisation.

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 first ...”

Addressing the ANC KwaZulu-Natal conference last month, Zuma said the ANC came first ahead of the country, comments which were heavily criticised.

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” campaign.

“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.

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