South African opposition parties aim at President Jacob Zuma

Back in December 2015, Zuma fired his respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with a virtually unknown former mayor, David van Rooyen.

Gordhan has been supported by several senior ministers and many worldwide investors, as well as being widely admired by ordinary South Africans and veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle.

Zuma has vowed to enact "radical economic transformation" to tackle racial inequality and poverty, while Gordhan has fought to control spending and root out corruption.

A senior member of the South African Communist Party, which is in an alliance with the ANC, said that Zuma told its leaders that he planned to fire Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas. Anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada, who spent 26 years in jail - many of them alongside Nelson Mandela - for working to end South Africa's previous white minority rule, died in Johannesburg on Tuesday morning.

The SACP said it objected to that plan, while the main opposition said it would call a vote of no-confidence in Zuma over the matter.

Zuma in November survived an attempt by senior party members to oust him as president. Ramaphosa is seen as a likely candidate to succeed Zuma as ANC leader at the ruling party's conference in December.

Peter Attard Montalto, analyst at Nomura bank, said that sacking Gordhan would be "a very large, though calculated, risk". "We followed every little detail to try and get parliament to discipline President Zuma for having breached his oath of office". "President Zuma is set to resign as the head of the party in late 2017 and as state president in 2019".

Gordhan, 67, was given a standing ovation at the event.

The Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party on Thursday applied to the country's highest court to order parliament to begin impeachment proceedings against the president for lying to the legislative body.

He is also fighting a court order that could reinstate nearly 800 corruption charges against him over a multi-billion dollar arms deal in the 1990s.

After days of rumours, Mapaila's comments were the first public confirmation that Zuma intends to dismiss the ministers.

  • Salvatore Jensen