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Cracks showing in Gupta 'hold' on SA as Treasury dumps New Age breakfast

Feb 21 2016 12:51
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Cracks are forming in the Gupta family’s perceived influence over state resources, with Treasury’s decision not to take part in the post-budget New Age Breakfast this Thursday.

A Treasury official told Fin24 on Wednesday that the department will still hold a post-budget breakfast with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, but it won’t be organised by the breakfast show on SABC, which is sponsored by the Gupta-owned New Age newspaper.

Cabinet ministers are regulars on the show and President Jacob Zuma has used the platform annually the morning after his State of the Nation address. This year was no exception.

The Sunday Times revealed that Treasury will partner e.tv and eNCA, after Treasury told SABC they did not want the Guptas sponsoring the breakfast, resulting in the SABC pulling out due to contractual obligations.

"It felt like a good time to break with tradition and explore the other requests,” Treasury spokesperson Phumza Macanda told the Sunday paper. “SABC might not be broadcasting the event live, but their reporters will still be able to cover the event.”

Treasury sources told the Sunday Times the “main reason Gordhan's breakfast briefing would not be shown on the SABC was the public broadcaster's perceived link with the Guptas”.

Tensions within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) are growing over the Guptas' growing influence of state resources, after allegations emerged that Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and former finance minister Des van Rooyen were Gupta appointees.

READ: Named: Van Rooyen’s two Gupta 'advisers' who almost hijacked SA Treasury

Questions have since emerged around Zwane’s role in Glencore’s sale of Optimum mine to Tegeta Exploration and Resources, owned by the Guptas and their business partner Duduzane Zuma, the son of the president.

READ: Guptas have business link to Mines Minister Zwane

Van Rooyen’s appointment as finance minister in December lasted a few days, because Zuma was reportedly persuaded by senior ANC leaders and the country's top business executives to backtrack on the decision to spare the country from economic collapse.

Gordhan, removed by Zuma as finance minister in 2014 for attempting to curtail government spending, was asked to return to the post after Nhlanhla Nene was ousted and Van Rooyen dumped.

Analysts believe Gordhan can now exert more power than ever to pull South Africa back from the brink of a rating downgrade to junk status, a scenario that would have untold economic repercussions.

However, it is unclear whether his budget address on Wednesday will be able to satisfy rating agencies Standard & Poor’s (S&P), Fitch and Moody’s, all based in New York.

Nomura emerging markets economist Peter Attard Montalto believes the lack of microeconomic structural reforms is the real cause for long-run growth concerns and long-run fiscal and debt worries.

After the budget address, S&P will “wait and judge” what progress is made in the first half of the year, looking at growth numbers, the current account, wage round labour relations and other factors, said Montalto.

However, he believes S&P will eventually decide to downgrade South Africa to junk status in its December ratings review.

ALSO READ: End corruption, Fin24 users tell Gordhan

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