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Finance minister back in South Africa after Zuma recall

South Africa’s Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan delivering the 2017 Budget address at the National Assembly in Cape Town. South African President Jacob Zuma has ordered his finance minister to return from an overseas investment trip, the presidency said on March 27, 2017, fuelling speculation that a cabinet reshuffle is imminent. Zuma’s decision to recall Pravin Gordhan from Britain has led to media and opposition speculation that he could be sacked. The two men have had an increasingly uneasy relationship in recent months.<br />/ AFP PHOTO / RODGER BOSCH

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan returned to South Africa Tuesday, officials said, after he was recalled from a trade trip by President Jacob Zuma, fuelling speculation of a dramatic political showdown.

Zuma’s decision to order Gordhan back from Britain in the middle of an investment roadshow led to predictions that Gordhan may soon be sacked — a move likely to deepen sharp divisions in the ruling ANC party.

The president and Gordhan have had an increasingly uneasy relationship in recent months.

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.

“Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan (has) landed in the country,” the Treasury confirmed in a tweet.

Local media reported that Gordhan visited the ANC party headquarters in Johannesburg shortly after his return.

The government has given no reason for Gordhan’s sudden recall.

The political tensions spooked foreign exchange markets, with the rand losing almost six percent against the US dollar since the recall was announced Monday, with $1 buying 13.02 rand at midday on Tuesday.

In December 2015, Zuma unexpectedly sacked finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with an obscure lawmaker, triggering panic among investors and a sharp drop in the rand.

Just four days later, internationally-respected Gordhan was appointed to the role to calm markets.

Political manoeuvrings in South Africa may be put on hold as the country mourns the death of anti-apartheid ANC veteran Ahmed Kathrada, who died on Tuesday.

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