President Jacob Zuma bows to public pressure appointing a third finance ministers in one week. He brought back well-respected minister Pravin Gordhan to reassure the markets, but how much political damage has been done?
After axing Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene last week without giving any reason, Zuma provoked even more outrage with the shock appointment of the little-known and untested lawmaker David van Rooyen to replace Nene.
The finance world reacted with alarm. The rand dropped within 24 hours and lost 25 percent of its value to hard currency. The country lost billions at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange as South Africa fell into a political crisis.
After just a few days Zuma found himself forced into a change of heart. He brought back the highly respected Pravin Gordhan who was finance minister from 2009 to May 2014. Gordhan steered the South African economy through the first recession in 17 years while fending off pressure from labor unions to increase spending.
"We will stay the cause of sound fiscal management," said Gordhan in his first speech as newly appointed finance minister and promised to take into account the concerns of the rating agencies.
While Gordhan reassured the markets at home and abroad, the local currency improved promptly.
"We can only have extra expenditure if we raise extra revenue," said Gordhan. He went on to emphasize his plans not to cut pro-poor programs and to continue investment into the economy.
But concerns about the president's leadership persist. Social media have united thousands of South Africans under #ZumaMustFall who are calling for President Jacob Zuma to step down from his position.
Zizi Kodwa, spokesperson of the African National Congress (ANC), expressed "full confidence" in President Zuma and said the government is responsive and accountable.
There is no threat to democracy in South Africa, said Tom Lodge, a political commentator currently lecturing at the University of Limerick in Ireland.
"He [Zuma] rather pays too much attention to public opinion. If you continue with a situation that the SA economy is growing at 1.4 percent a year, where unemployment sits at a third, and roughly half of the youth is unemployed, then government becomes more vulnerable to make popular decisions to maintain the party’s electoral base," Lodge said.
Observers criticize the president's office for seeking the go-ahead for the purchase of another private jet.
"The country has been suffering for a long time from incompetent ministers and also senior officials who are extremely venal and very corrupt," added Lodge.
South Africans unhappy
According to a Bloomberg poll, political distrust for the current president is at 66 percent compared to 37 percent in 2011 but Zuma will likely survive his own disaster.
"He is a skilful survivor. His political career over the last 15 years is one in which survival has become a major achievement," Lodge said.
President Zuma's term in office is not due to end before 2019. The ruling party will only choose the new presidential candidate in 2017. But the infighting within the ANC party is enormous, including an increasing amount of unhappy Zuma supporters and backbenchers.
Many South Africans are not ready to forgive their president. "Rather if we can get a better captain to prevent the ship from sinking. Jacob Zuma can go to Nkandla, look after his cattle and his chickens," said 28-year-old Pakiswa William Kalane.