Godongwana: 10% chance of Ramaphosa resigning

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Should President Cyril Ramaphosa resign, economic policy won’t change, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said, while stressing that he expects him to stay in his post.

Ramaphosa is seen as the driving force behind South Africa’s bid to liberalize its power sector and throw its economy open to private investment, but Godongwana emphasised that policy is determined by the governing ANC and isn’t tied to any individual.

“Any president is not going to pursue individualistic polices outside the framework of the party,” Godongwana said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Friday. Economic measures that will be announced in the February budget will follow on from last month’s budget update, he said. 

South African markets were roiled this week after an advisory panel established by parliament found grounds for lawmakers to consider impeaching Ramaphosa over his alleged failure to properly report a robbery at his game farm - during which he says $580 000 (R10.2 million) hidden in a sofa were stolen - and potential violations of the constitution. 

The day after the findings were released, the nation’s currency posted its worst one-day loss since May while the government’s borrowing costs surged the most since 2015. The price of South African five-year credit default swaps climbed by the most since March 2020, indicating investor nervousness about political instability. 

Still, those securities have now clawed back some ground. The rand rallied as much as 1.8% after Godongwana’s interview and government bonds jumped.

South Africa is no stranger to political turmoil.

In 2008, Thabo Mbeki, the president under whom South Africa saw its best post-apartheid economic growth, stepped down under pressure from the ANC after losing an intra-party electoral vote. And in 2018, Jacob Zuma was forced to quit after a series of corruption scandals eroded his party’s electoral support.

“We are used to this kind of disruption and we have always found ways of managing it,” Godongwana said. “It’s noisy, it is our nation.”

The finance chief said he wants Ramaphosa to win a second term as ANC leader at its electoral conference later this month and that he only sees a 10% chance that he will resign. He added that he would in principle be willing to continue to serve in his position under a new leader.

Godongwana reiterated earlier comments by ANC Chairman, Gwede Mantashe, that Ramaphosa is an asset to the ANC.

“He is more popular than the party,” he said. 

Colin Coleman, the former head of Goldman Sachs for Southern Africa, expressed concern that South Africa’s focus on anti-corruption initiatives may waver, even if economic policy is maintained. 

“I don’t worry that the policy of the ruling party is going to change,” Coleman said. “Corruption has been one of the main issues that the president has been trying to tackle and without him there is obviously a question mark over whether that anti-corruption campaign will continue.”

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