South African President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday he has full confidence in Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who is under police investigation over a suspected spy unit at the tax service.
Zuma said he could not intervene in the investigations despite the negative impact the probe has caused on the economy, according to a statement released by the presidency.
The rand, which had tumbled 5 percent since Tuesday in response to the investigation, extended gains to 1.3 percent after Zuma’s statement after starting a recovery on Thursday.
News of Gordhan’s summons this week compounded investors’ worries about a power struggle between Zuma and Gordhan as Africa’s most industrialised economy teeters near recession and credit rating agencies consider downgrading it to “junk” by year-end.
In his first public comments on the matter since it surfaced late on Tuesday, Zuma said he had noted the concerns by individuals and various organisations over the investigation.
“President Jacob Zuma wishes to express his full support and confidence in the Minister of Finance and emphasises the fact that the minister has not been found guilty of any wrong doing,” the presidency said in a statement.
“The Presidency wishes to also emphasise that President Zuma does not have powers to stop any investigations into any individual/s.”
“The negative effect of these matters on our economy, personal pressure on the individuals affected as well as the heads of institutions, however disturbing, cannot be cause for the President to intervene unconstitutionally.”
Gordhan said on Wednesday he had no legal obligation to obey a police summons linked to an investigation into whether he used the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to spy on politicians including Zuma.
(Reporting by James Macharia; Editing by Dominic Evans)