Former South African minister says Zuma should go over Nene sacking

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Former South African health minister and leading anti-apartheid activist Barbara Hogan called on Friday for President Jacob Zuma to quit after his decision to fire Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene sent markets and the rand into a tailspin.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma speaks during a Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Sandton, Johannesburg, December 4, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Besides Hogan, South Africans furious at the 9 percent decline in their currency since Nene’s departure have launched a #ZumaMustFall Twitter campaign, echoing ones earlier this year demanding the removal of colonial-era statues.

The highest-profile member of the African National Congress (ANC) to come out against the sacking of Nene, Hogan said Zuma had crossed a line and needed to be held to account for the dismissal of a respected long-term finance ministry official.

“This country would be far better off without this man as our president, and I say that with a great deal of sadness,” Hogan told Johannesburg’s Talk Radio 702.

“He has misjudged the situation. It shows an appalling lack of understanding of what is required for economic management of this country.”

Hogan, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the apartheid government for high treason, served as public enterprises minister under Zuma in his first term but was axed in 2010.

She said that during his seven years in power, Zuma had destroyed the carefully cultured reputation for competent government built up since the ANC and Nelson Mandela took over from the white-minority government in 1994.

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She was particularly upset at Zuma’s refusal to give any reason for his decision.

Speculation has centered on Nene’s public opposition last week to a controversial aircraft-purchasing plan by South African Airways chairwoman Dudu Myeni, who is also head of the Jacob Zuma Foundation.

Nene was also opposed to plans to spend possibly as much as $100 billion building a fleet of nuclear power stations, an investment most analysts said the country could not afford.

South Africa’s rand weakened to a new record low on Friday, slumping more than 3 percent in a sell-off by investors, while stocks also fell.

In his place is David van Rooyen, until now a backbench member of parliament for the ANC who was once a soldier in the party’s disbanded military wing, UmKhonto we Sizwe.

“When a president does behave in this kind of way, we do need to be very very worried. We are on a slippery slope here,” she said. “He seems to be only accountable to the cronies that he seems to spend a lot of time with.”

Presidency spokesman Bongani Majola did not respond to a request for comment. ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa’s phone was not turned on.

Editing by James Macharia; editing by Ralph Boulton