SA needs to be careful not to frighten away investors, Cyril Ramaphosa says

SINGAPORE — Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says a police probe into the finance minister that has undermined investor confidence in the country, should be conducted in a way that does not destabilise the economy.

“No one is above the law,” Ramaphosa told reporters on Friday in Singapore at the end of his three-day visit to the city state. “But clearly the way it’s been done so far has caused some concern in number of quarters.” Investor confidence in SA has taken a knock this year on concern Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan may be arrested and the nation’s credit rating will be downgraded to junk. The Hawks are probing the finance minister over an allegedly illicit surveillance unit set up when he led the national tax agency.

“The law must take its course but in the execution of that legal process, nothing must be done as to cause difficulty and problems for state institutions, the Treasury as an institution, and cause imbalances in the economy,” Ramaphosa said.

“It’s important that whatever we do to be very, very careful. So careful that we don’t frighten investors, we don’t cause too much angst and concern for the people of SA.” Gordhan, in an interview with Bloomberg TV in New York this week, called the probe “a bit of political mischief” by those trying to undermine the independence of the Treasury.

The minister led a delegation of business leaders with Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago, at an investor conference in New York earlier this week, as part of an effort to boost confidence in the economy and stave of a credit-rating downgrade.

The country is at risk of losing its investment-level credit status as S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings review their assessments in December. Both kept their ratings at one level above junk in June, and S&P kept the negative outlook, saying the government must take decisive measures to bolster growth, quell policy uncertainty and end political turmoil to avoid a future downgrade.

President Jacob Zuma is facing calls from business leaders and former politicians to step down as his administration becomes more embroiled in corruption allegations and the economy goes adrift. Former finance minister Trevor Manuel on Thursday joined AngloGold Ashanti chairperson Sipho Pityana and former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan in a call for Zuma to quit.

“People are entitled to make their own comments,” Ramaphosa said. The ANC’s decision-making structures “do hear what other people say and we take that into account. But in the end from a constitutional point of view, the decisions must be taken by decision-making structures.” The ruling ANC will elect new leaders in December 2017 and Ramaphosa is tipped as one of the possible candidates to replace Zuma as the party’s leader next year and as the country’s president in 2019. Ramaphosa refused to say if he would seek the positions, saying the process of selecting new leadership had not yet started.

It’s “foolhardy to say what do you feel, what do you think, because we don’t work like that,” he said. “We are not like an American presidency where one raises one’s hand up and says, ‘I want to run for president’. We are not like that. You are called to be a leader and then you respond.”




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