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WATCH: Upbeat Gordhan hopes for ‘better times’

Jun 02 2016 12:53
Matthew le Cordeur with Bloomberg

Cape Town – Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan hopes National Treasury will experience better times amid what he termed South Africa’s “noisy democracy”.

Speaking to Bloomberg in Paris on Wednesday, Gordhan told Bloomberg TV that negativity surrounding himself as a politician “might come on and off as part of the political noise that you see in a political system”.

“Sometimes we call ourselves a noisy democracy, but at the best of times we as Treasury are allowed to do what we need to do as part of a governmental system and team,” he said.

“Hopefully the good times will remain and become better times.”

WATCH: Full interview in Paris with Pravin Gordhan

Ratings review

Gordhan has been instrumental in bringing labour, business and government together to plan a way forward to grow the stagnating economy.

READ: Gordhan pleads for united SA to help economy

He was appointed after the firing of Nhlanhla Nene and appointment of a little-known politician in December as finance minister resulted in the country’s finances being battered and its global reputation questioned.

The test over whether Gordhan’s efforts paid off rest with the rating agencies. Standard & Poor’s and Fitch both rate South African debt one level above junk, with negative outlooks on its BBB- assessment.

A downgrade in an already ailing economy will signal a riskier investment climate and will have dire consequences for borrowing costs, foreign direct investment and employment.

Therefore, S&P’s announcement of its review on Friday that could see the country downgraded to junk status might be seen as a failure on Gordhan’s part.

READ: Gordhan: SA did enough to avert downgrades

Political noise

His task has not been made easy with the “political noise” surrounding him, with allegations that President Jacob Zuma used state resources to put him under pressure, especially regarding his stance on nuclear energy and South African Airways.

The Presidency has been critical of this allegation, saying it “strongly condemns the toxic narrative that is being promoted in the media that insinuates that President Jacob Zuma is engaged in a certain ‘war’ with the Minister of Finance”.

READ: Zuma not 'at war' with Gordhan - presidency

However, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) stepped up its investigation into allegations that a unit at the SA Revenue Service (Sars) when Gordhan was commissioner illegally spied on people.

They were criticised for sending him questions ahead of his Budget speech in February, a move that nearly resulted in him resigning.

“I cannot believe that I am being investigated and could possibly be charged for something I am completely innocent of,” Gordhan said on May 17, after a story claimed he was about to be arrested.

“The malicious rumours and accusations about ‘espionage’ activities are false and manufactured for other motives.”

Days later, the Hawks said Gordhan isn’t a suspect in its investigation of the so-called Sars rogue unit and won’t be arrested.

“At this stage, there should be no reason for the minister to be concerned,” Berning Ntlemezall, head of the Hawks police unit, wrote in a letter to Gordhan’s lawyers on Friday, according to the Sunday Independent. “I hope this will allay the minister’s fears.”



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