Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan returned to South Africa Tuesday, officials said, after he was recalled from a trade trip by President Jacob Zuma, fuelling speculation of a dramatic political showdown.
Zuma’s decision to order Gordhan back from Britain in the middle of an investment roadshow led to predictions that Gordhan may soon be sacked — a move likely to deepen sharp divisions in the ruling ANC party.
The president and Gordhan have had an increasingly uneasy relationship in recent months.
Zuma has vowed to enact “radical economic transformation” to tackle racial inequality and poverty, while Gordhan has fought to control spending and root out corruption.
“Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan (has) landed in the country,” the Treasury confirmed in a tweet.
Local media reported that Gordhan visited the ANC party headquarters in Johannesburg shortly after his return.
The government has given no reason for Gordhan’s sudden recall.
The political tensions spooked foreign exchange markets, with the rand losing almost six percent against the US dollar since the recall was announced Monday, with $1 buying 13.02 rand at midday on Tuesday.
In December 2015, Zuma unexpectedly sacked finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with an obscure lawmaker, triggering panic among investors and a sharp drop in the rand.
Just four days later, internationally-respected Gordhan was appointed to the role to calm markets.
Political manoeuvrings in South Africa may be put on hold as the country mourns the death of anti-apartheid ANC veteran Ahmed Kathrada, who died on Tuesday.