President Jacob Zuma’s decision to fire Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas is an "act of complete state capture", Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane has said.
Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet in the early hours of Friday morning, sacking Gordhan, Jonas and Derek Hanekom.
He also moved sports minister Fikile Mbalula to police and added a few new entries to the Cabinet.
"The President has once again shown that he has no interest in our beloved country’s future – or the nine million South Africans who are unemployed. He has bowed to the whims of those who are determined to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor and jobless," Maimane said following the reshuffle.
He said the country's citizens could not sit and let this happen.
"It is time that all South Africans stand together to protect our democracy. The time is now. We must stand together and defend what so many fought and died for."
He called for Parliament to fire Zuma.
'Main positive is that he is not Brian Molefe'
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said the main target of the reshuffle was the National Treasury, and the rest of the Cabinet did not make any sense.
"Unfortunately for Gigaba and his deputy, they will have to hit the ground running. People will be judging them to see how they react to pressure from the banks and Guptas," he said.
It would be sad if Zuma was doing this reshuffle to get a licence to loot, Holomisa said.
The DA’s David Maynier said he was wary of the new finance minister.
"The appointment of the new Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, means that National Treasury is now firmly under the political control of President Jacob Zuma," Maynier said.
The new finance minister has extensive experience in the national executive, but he has absolutely no experience in the finance family and his appointment is unlikely to be well received by the markets.
"His principle qualification for the job is his absolute loyalty to President Jacob Zuma and he appears to have been a compromise choice and his main positive is that he is not Brian Molefe."
'All about having a compliant finance ministry'
Newly appointed Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba will have the tough task of reassuring credit rating agencies, which will be very unnerved by Zuma’s axing of Gordhan and Jonas.
This was the reaction from political analyst Daniel Silke after Zuma made some far-reaching changes to his Cabinet late on Thursday night.
Gigaba, former home affairs minister who previously had a stint as public enterprises minister, will now take charge of National Treasury – something Silke says will probably open the door for the Guptas to have their application for a banking licence approved, and see their desire to purchase the Habib Bank realised.
"Gigaba’s appointment is all about having a compliant finance ministry," said Silke.
"The question is to what degree will he bow to pressures to spend more on large-scale programmes, such as a nuclear build programme.
"What will the effect be on our debt to GDP ratio and on government spending and will Gigaba be able to resist demands from the president?"
'The whole country is harmed'
Many of these questions will remain unanswered for now, Silke said, but he would be judged very quickly by the markets and ratings agencies alike.
Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum, said it was a disgrace that the ANC’s infighting had degenerated to such an extent that the Zuma camp was now even prepared to sacrifice the country’s economy and the value of the rand, simply to wage internal ANC battles.
"The whole country is harmed and faces downgrading by grading agencies – all to serve the interests of one man, Jacob Zuma," Kriel said.