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ANC's Mantashe, Duarte slate rating agencies over political bias

Jan 18 2017 12:28
Mahlatse Gallens

Cape Town – Rating agencies are “no angels” and have a “particular ideological outlook”, African National Congress (ANC) secretary general Gwede Mantashe said.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Mantashe said rating agencies “move from a particular angle” and that “somebody is funding them”.

“That’s why we always emphasise that when we deal with rating agencies we must always ensure that we are not working for rating agencies,” he said.

“We do what is right for South Africa and rating agencies must rate us on our work,” he said. “Unfortunately, they are very influential in terms of your status in the international financial world.”

Standard & Poor’s and Fitch both have South Africa at BBB- with a negative outlook. This is one notch above junk status. The current rank assigned by Moody’s is two notches above sub-investment grade, with a negative outlook.

According to analysts, S&P is likely to downgrade South Africa’s sovereign credit rating to junk status by mid-2017.

BMI Research, which is part of Fitch, said in its risk review in January 2017 that a downgrade to junk status “would have significant knock-on effects, including prompting a sharp currency sell-off, increasing imported inflation, undermining business confidence and increasing government and private firms' borrowing costs”.

ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said the ruling party is concerned about the “political slanting of rating agencies”.

"They are supposed ... to provide banks who loan governments money with an assessment of the ability of that government to repay their loans," she said at the press conference on Tuesday. "That’s their only role.

“We have been very concerned about the political slanting of rating agencies and regarding political slanting as a risk.

“It is not compatible with examining whether or not a country can repay its loans,” she said. “South Africa has not had one lapse in payment in its bonds anywhere. It’s on time, including the interest.

“The ANC is not against rating agencies,” she said, but asked them to “do what you are supposed to do, fairly”. 

Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter:

fitch  |  moody's  |  anc  |  s&p  |  jesse duarte  |  gwede ­mantashe  |  rating agencies
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