Zuma shrugs off blame for credit rat­ings dives


PRES­I­DENT Ja­cob Zuma has scoffed at sug­ges­tions that he should per­son­ally be held re­spon­si­ble for the coun­try’s re­cent credit rat­ing down­grades, say­ing that most coun­tries had suf­fered the same fate.

An un­per­turbed Zuma said coun­tries down­graded to junk sta­tus man­aged to get their econ­omy back on track. He told MPs yes­ter­day that the econ­omy would pick up, de­spite the re­cent down­grades by rat­ings agen­cies.

South Africa sank into re­ces­sion for the first time in eight years in the first quar­ter, wors­en­ing an ail­ing econ­omy that has seen the coun­try shed jobs and suf­fer ris­ing food prices.

There was no need to panic, Zuma said yes­ter­day. He said South Africa must take a leaf from coun­tries in Europe and else­where that had man­aged to re­bound from down­grades.

Op­po­si­tion MPs put the blame for the down­grades by Stan­dard & Poor’s and Fitch squarely on Zuma, with Mmusi Maimane of the DA and Dei­dre Carter of Cope say­ing he must take re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Zuma said MPs must learn to deal with facts and not as­sume that he can be held re­spon­si­ble for the down­grades. “I am not sure how much mem­bers ap­pre­ci­ate the global sit­u­a­tion, par­tic­u­larly the rat­ings.

“There are a num­ber of coun­tries that have been down­graded. I am not sure what hap­pened in those coun­tries, whether it was a leader or the econ­omy,” he said.

He said he could not be sin­gled out and ac­cused of caus­ing the down­grades be­cause they hap­pened for var­i­ous fac­tors.

Zuma has been un­der fire since his cabi­net reshuf­fle in March, when he axed for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han and his deputy Mce­bisi Jonas.

Gord­han was on an in­vestor road­show in Lon­don in March when he was called by Zuma to come back be­fore be­ing fired a few days later.

This led two rat­ings agen­cies, Stan­dard & Poor’s and Fitch, to down­grade South Africa to junk sta­tus.

Moody’s post­poned its an­nounce­ment for three months un­til it re­leased its de­ci­sion two weeks ago, when it also down­graded South Africa.

MPs also raised con­cern about the re­cent fig­ures from Statis­tics South Africa on the in­crease in unem­ploy­ment to 27.7% and the con­trac­tion in the econ­omy, push­ing the coun­try into a re­ces­sion.

The coun­try had two con­sec­u­tive neg­a­tive growth spells in the last quar­ter of 2016 and the first of the year, which led to a tech­ni­cal re­ces­sion.

Zuma said the gov­ern­ment was do­ing all it could to get the econ­omy back on track. He said he had met with the eco­nom­ics clus­ter this week on plans to reignite growth in the econ­omy.

He said the drought did not help as it had also con­tributed to the poor eco­nomic growth.

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