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Zuma defends decision to remove Nene

Jacob Zuma says it’s his prerogative to change ministers & took this decision in the best interests of SA.

FILE: Former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has defended his decision to remove Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister in December.

He says it's the president's prerogative to change ministers and he took this decision in the best interests of the country.

"There are always reasons. If, for example, a minister is to be shifted or re-deployed there are reasons that lead to that."

The decision sent the rand into a tailspin, losing major ground against the dollar, euro and pound.

However, Zuma says the exchange rate is often affected by such decisions.

"The rand was in trouble before Nene left [and] it was on the down-slope. It is not the first time that the markets react when a minister is either put or taken away."

Zuma is insisting he axed Nene for good reasons and that the Gupta family had nothing to do with it.

But he says there were good reasons.

"There were reasons my minister Nene had to be re-deployed. They are the reasons of government and once Nene was removed, you needed to replace him, that's what I did."

The president told MPs that they should approach the Guptas to find out whether Jonas was telling the truth or not.

"The Constitution does not require me to consult anyone before I appoint or remove a minister or a deputy minister."

Nene was replaced by Des van Rooyen.

Zuma then defended van Rooyen's credentials and suitability for the post.

"You know van Rooyen is my comrade, MK for that matter. He is a trained finance and economic comrade and more qualified than any minister I have ever appointed, in the finance issue."

Within a very short space of time, van Rooyen was also replaced with the current Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan.

Is van Rooyen the most qualified minister of finance? Click here to find out.

'DON'T ASK ME, ASK THE GUPTAS'

The p resident's message in Parliament today, when opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) urged him to come clean on the alleged influence wielded by the well-connected Gupta family, was simple: Don't ask me, ask the Guptas.

The Inkatha Freedom Party's Sibongile Nkomo told Zuma that axing Nene dealt a shattering blow to the economy and brought it closer to being downgraded to junk status.

"Were you influenced in any way by any third party in your decision to fire Mr Nene?"

Zuma, who's had more cabinet reshuffles than any other democratic president, insisted he acted for good reasons.

"There is no minister who is here who was ever appointed by the Guptas or anybody else."

Asked about Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas's bombshell statement that the Guptas offered him treasury's top job, Zuma referred queries to the Guptas themselves.

WATCH: Zuma reacts to alleged 'Gupta appointments'