The firing of South Africa's respected finance minister on Friday sent the currency tumbling by close to 5 percent and brought fresh anger at President Jacob Zuma as a split in the ruling party deepened. The country's main opposition party said it will challenge the move in court.
Zuma's replacement of Pravin Gordhan came as part of an overnight Cabinet shuffle that changes 10 of the country's 35 ministers. "Holy wow. Midnight ministerial massacre in South Africa," former U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard tweeted.
The new ministers will be sworn in later Friday, but the opposition Democratic Alliance said it would file an urgent request in the Western Cape High Court to halt the swearing-in.
Many South Africans had viewed Gordhan as a responsible steward of an economy that now could be downgraded to junk status by credit ratings agencies within days. The firing is another blow to Africa's most industrialized economy that grew just 0.5 percent last year and suffers from 27 percent unemployment.
Pressure has been growing on Zuma to step down after he recalled Gordhan.
Gordhan is being replaced by Malusi Gigaba, a former home affairs minister. Gigaba, who was criticized for introducing draconian visa rules that crippled South Africa's tourism industry, has little experience in economics.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the country's treasury, where Gordhan told reporters it "sickens me" that he had been accused of holding secret meetings seeking to undermine the government.
His firing "can have quite significant negative impacts on the economy and on policy in the short term. In the longer term, however, it may lead to the downfall of Zuma and his patronage, which will certainly be a good thing for South Africa," said economist Dawie Roodt.
(via Business Insider)