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ICYMI: Plea from Motlanthe: Zuma, step down

Economy

Johannesburg - South African President Jacob Zuma is more focused on vested interests than the welfare of the nation and should resign, former President Kgalema Motlanthe said.

Motlanthe, 67, said in interviews at Bloomberg's Johannesburg office that a breakdown in the African National Congress's democratic values under Zuma and a ruling by the Constitutional Court last year that he violated his oath of office by failing to repay taxpayer money on his private home showed that Zuma should no longer run the country.

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GO WELL, UNCLE KATHY: Former president Kgalema Motlanthe delivers the eulogy at the funeral of Struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada at Westpark Cemetery on Wednesday.Picture: Dimpho Maja

"He doesn't come across as someone who thinks about what is in the national interests or what is in the organisational interests, but seems to be driven by an agenda based on vested interests," Motlanthe said. "That's why to an observer there's a measure of irrationality to
what he does."

Motlanthe, who served as president from September 2008 to May 2009, is the latest senior ANC official to criticize Zuma following his decision last week to fire Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and make sweeping changes to his Cabinet. Zuma doesn't understand how his actions can influence decisions by rating companies, and his actions showed a "recklessness" that ruined South Africa's credibility, he said.

South Africa lost its investment-grade credit status from S&P Global Ratings for the first time in 17 years in response to the cabinet purge that investors worry will thwart an economic recovery.

Read also: Zuma's actions 'put SA into turmoil' – BASA

S&P cut the foreign-currency rating to BB+, the highest junk score, on Monday and warned that a deterioration of the nation's fiscal and macroeconomic performance could lead to further cuts.

"The downgrade reflects our view that the divisions in the ANC-led government that have led to changes in the executive leadership, including the finance minister, have put policy continuity at risk," S&P said.

The rand is the worst-performing currency against the dollar since March 27, the day Zuma demanded Gordhan be recalled from an investor roadshow in London ahead of being fired, weakening 9.1 percent.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe and Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize publicly questioned the manner in which the cabinet changes were handled. The trio make up half of the party's committee of top officials. Jackson Mthembu, the ANC's parliamentary chief whip, also criticised on Twitter the decision to fire Gordhan, while the South African Communist Party, which is in an alliance with the ANC, urged Zuma to quit.

Great renewal

"What you are asked to do as citizens of this country is to support the efforts that are going to be made by those that are going to ensure our country lives up to the values of Nelson Mandela," Ramaphosa said in a speech in KwaZulu-Natal province on Saturday broadcast by eNCA. "Be in support of those who will be leading that change because a moment of great renewal is upon us and we should not let it go by. That moment has arrived."

Senior leaders of the ANC are partly to blame for allowing Zuma to get out of control because they repeatedly defended his actions in the name of protecting the party, Motlanthe said.

"We seem to be in a situation where if he commits mistakes, the leadership of the ANC says we are defending the organisation and therefore countenance the mistakes under the guise of defending the organisation," he said. "Over time they have countenanced his mistakes and actually defended him, and in the process they are complicit in the wrongdoing."

Zuma's spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga didn't respond to calls and text messages seeking comment.

While parliamentary Speaker Baleka Mbete said she's considering a request to recall lawmakers to debate an opposition-sponsored motion of no confidence in Zuma, Motlanthe said the vote probably wouldn't succeed because it was being driven by the opposition and most ANC members see defending the president as supporting the party. He later said on Bloomberg TV that "anything is possible."

"The question today that confronts us is: 'What do you do when the organization is led by the most incorrigible people? How will the ANC save itself if it is led by the most incorrigible people?'" he asked.

"Incorrigibility means you don't leave, you continue, so you don't deal with the scandal that occurs today because tomorrow you are confronted by a new one, a fresh one. So it goes on and on."

Read also: Moody's places SA on review

Motlanthe was secretary-general of the ANC for a decade until 2007 and served as national deputy president under Zuma from 2009 to 2014. He unsuccessfully challenged Zuma for the leadership of the party in December 2012.

Motlanthe ruled out standing for election as ANC leader at the end of this year when Zuma is scheduled to step down, even if asked to run.
The party leadership is no longer obeying its own constitution, he said, and the election could be rigged.

"No, I will not accept. I don't think in that sense I belong to the ANC quite frankly," he said. "I don't see the value of joining crooked people. I think the way to relate to crooked people is to stay away from them."

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