“Once again, South Africa is in the limelight for all the wrong reasons”
As most South African travellers will know, South Africa has an image problem. All too often, the country’s international repute is defined by negative views around crime, corruption and xenophobia. Only a handful of local stories that make the front pages of international newspapers portray the country in its best possible light. Those negative insights aren’t likely to change any time soon. South Africa made international news, but once again it is for all the wrong reasons. The firing of Pravin Gordhan and eight other ministers generated a flood of concerned headlines across the world. Gordhan had been seen as a steady hand by the markets, admired for standing up to the president and fighting corruption and cronyism in Zuma’s government.The Financial Times, echoed this negative outlook: business leaders warned the dismissal of Mr. Gordhan, who was leading efforts to restore confidence in South Africa, the rand, which had been one of the best performing emerging market currencies, plummeted about 7% this week, its worst fall since late 2015. Other publications focused on the political implications of Zuma’s decision, highlighting the growing opposition to the president’s rule. “South African president Jacob Zuma faced a widening public backlash from senior members of the ruling African National Congress including his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, on Friday after firing his finance minister as part of sweeping Cabinet changes announced overnight,” reported the Abu Dhabi-based The National. Al Jazeera, meanwhile, said that the “major Cabinet reshuffle comes as calls for South African president to quit grow amid political and financial turmoil”. In a longer analysis, the Guardian’s Jason “There has been much speculation about the motives of the president. Critics accuse Zuma of hoping to assure the succession of a former wife who may protect him from multiple corruption charges once he has left office. Correspondents offered a similarly bleak assessment. It’s not hyperbolic to suggest that what happens next, in the coming hours and days, will determine whether South Africa’s hard-won democracy will survive or whether it will join the club of postcolonial calamities that have scarred the continent’s past.