Max du Preez

'Is there an ANC group that wants SA in junk territory?'

2016-05-31 06:34

Max du Preez

Could it be possible that there is an interest group inside the ANC and government that actually wants the rating agencies to push us into junk territory? It surely is beginning to look that. But what could be the motivation?

At best we can say that the rent-seeking faction of President Jacob Zuma clearly don’t give a damn if a downgrade on Friday by Standard & Poor’s hurts the economy or not. He and his friends in politics and business are more or less immune. In any case, Zuma has proved that he is only concerned about his own short-term interests and not the ramifications of his actions for the country’s longer term future.

There is ample circumstantial evidence that points to an active campaign that can only have a downgrade as its ultimate outcome. It is hard to think of any other more effective ways that those in the Zuma camp could have undermined the concerted efforts to avoid a downgrade.

The SACP has declared that there was a “coordinated destabilisation process” being driven against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa says there are attempts to  “sabotage” Gordhan and pave the way for his removal. “It is being done for political reasons, so that in the end Pravin can be seen as a failure.”

Is the Zuma faction and its fox terriers, including the media outlets of the Gupta empire, planning to blame Gordhan if Standard and Poor’s does decide on a downgrade, and then to use that as an excuse to fire him?

That would be totally bizarre, because Gordhan has mounted a herculean effort to reassure the rating agencies, the business community, and international investors. If there were going to be a downgrade, it would be in spite of Gordhan, not because of him. But then, more bizarre things have happened in recent months.

Despite all the statements and spin, there is no doubt that Zuma wants Gordhan out of the way so he can get the keys to the state kitty. Capturing the national treasury was the only reason for firing Nhanhla Nene on December 9 last year and replacing him with a failed mayor and Gupta flunky. Zuma’s wealth and that of his clan and friends could potentially grow tenfold if they got their hands on the state purse.

On Friday Zuma’s office issued a statement bemoaning the reporting of a “toxic relationship” between him and Gordhan, and his spokesperson declared on radio that Gordhan was Zuma’s choice as minister and that the two have an excellent relationship.

Sure, and that’s why Zuma has said repeatedly that Des van Rooyen was the best candidate for minister of finance and that some of his comrades and white capitalists had forced him to fire Van Rooyen?

Being forced to reverse the Van Rooyen appointment was the biggest humiliation Zuma had suffered since he became president and he is still clearly very bitter about that.

He was under pressure from his ANC colleagues to cease the war he and his lackeys were waging against Gordhan by ending the fake investigation into the so-called rogue SARS investigations unit.

That was why the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority issued statements last week saying Gordhan wasn’t about to be arrested.

But the ink on the statements was barely dry when City Press reported that the investigation into which Gordhan was drawn was actually reopened last week, and then we heard that the Hawks had started interviewing SARS officials.

And if you listened carefully, you would have heard the Hawks and the NPA keeping a back door open, stating that Gordhan wasn’t going to be charged “for now”.

At the same time, Zuma loyalists were creating the atmosphere for Gordhan to be fired. The minister of small business development, Lindiwe Zulu, warned Gordhan and the treasury that “South Africa wasn’t Britain” and Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini called the treasury a “threat” that had to be defeated.

Gordhan was telling the ratings agencies that a downgrade wasn’t warranted. One of his arguments is that the pledges of state austerity in his budget speech were being executed in practice. And while he was saying this, it was announced that the police's already stretched budget was used to buy five new luxurious vehicles for nearly R4m for Zuma’s wives, and that while their previous, equally luxurious vehicles were only two years old.

The rating agencies have made it clear that besides looking at the prospects of economic growth, they were also looking at the strength of institutions such as the judiciary and the national treasury – what Gordhan has called “our institutional resilience”. Why would the Zuma-camp then go out of its way right at this time to launch an offensive on the treasury and the minister of finance?

Gordhan told the Financial Mail in an interview last week: “As we sit here, we can start a whole new chapter in the way we think about the economy. There’s a palpable sense that we can work together. But the challenge is to get leadership to sustain this new pattern. And it has to benefit 55 million people, not just a small group who want to extract benefits for themselves.”

I’m afraid it seems that this “small group” still has the upper hand right now. And they have pasted a target on Gordhan’s back.

 - Follow Max on Twitter.

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News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.



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