* Rand extends losses against dollar on news of recall
* Investors see Gordhan as symbol of stability
* Analysts say cabinet reshuffle likely (Adds rand slides further, ANC ally, analysts)
By Mfuneko Toyana
PRETORIA, March 28 (Reuters) - Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was set to return to South Africa early on Tuesday after he was ordered home by the president, a move that rattled markets amid media reports that he might be sacked.
The rand tumbled more than 2.7 percent against the dollar, extending Monday’s losses, after Talk Radio 702 said Gordhan’s dismissal had been discussed at talks between President Jacob Zuma and the South African Communist Party (SACP), allies of the ruling ANC.
Zuma’s sudden recall of Gordhan from an investor roadshow in Britain and the United States triggered speculation that a long-running power struggle between the two men was coming to a head.
Gordhan was due to return hours before a court hearing over the closure of accounts belonging to friends of the president, the Gupta brothers, a case that has been a particular bone of contention between Zuma and his finance minister.
The General Secretary of the SACP, Blade Nzimande, told Talk Radio 702 that Gordhan’s future had been discussed at a meeting with Zuma. Another source at the meeting told the station Gordhan’s removal had been discussed, an alarming prospect for investors who see Gordhan as a centre of stability.
Political analyst Prince Mashele said Gordhan’s summoning so close to the court hearing pointed to a possible link to the Gupta case.
“The market will be eyeing the Gupta court case today,” Rand Merchant Bank analyst Gordon Kerr said. “While the ruling is important, it is the details being released in the court proceedings that will keep most people on their toes.”
Zuma has come under mounting political pressure since South Africa’s anti-graft watchdog called last year for a judge to investigate allegations of influence peddling in his government, in particular allegations that brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta wielded undue influence over the president.
Zuma has said the Guptas are his friends, but denies there is anything improper about the relationship and the brothers have denied any wrong-doing.
Gordhan has said the brothers have repeatedly asked him to intervene to have their accounts reopened.
In December, Gordhan asked the High Court to rule he was not allowed to interfere with decisions by South Africa’s major banks to close business accounts of the brothers’ Oakbay Investments.
The finance minister has accused the Gupta brothers of waging an “organised campaign” against him and Treasury, while the trio have themselves accused Gordhan of conducting a vendetta against them and trying to damage their business.
The state attorney confirmed Zuma would be represented in the case as an interested party.
$1 = 12.7595 rand Additional reporting by TJ Strydom and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Andrew Heavens