Cape Town – Pressure mounted on President Jacob Zuma to resign on Monday night as political parties laid South Africa’s downgrade to junk status by Standard and Poor’s (S&P) squarely at his feet.
The country’s biggest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), described the downgrade as a vote of no confidence in Zuma.
In a statement, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said it was a direct result of Zuma firing respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas in a sweeping cabinet reshuffle last week.
“President Zuma should resign immediately to allow a new administration to stabilise our economy, and to stanch this growing crisis,” said Maimane.
“Standard & Poors’ decision comes just days after President Zuma reshuffled his cabinet – sending shudders of uncertainty and volatility through our economy. International ratings agencies have long warned this government that our status is on a knife edge. Zuma has clearly learnt nothing from the market reaction to his firing of then Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015.”
At the same time, National Treasury, under the leadership of Gordhan’s successor, Malusi Gigaba, went on the defence.
“While the leadership of the finance portfolio has changed, government’s overall policy orientation remains the same. As indicated by Minister Gigaba on 1 April 2017, ‘government has been, and will remain, committed to a measured fiscal consolidation that stabilises the rise in public debt’,” a statement from Treasury said.
“Reducing reliance on foreign savings to fund investment and relying less on debt to finance public expenditure will secure South Africa’s fiscal sovereignty and economic independence.”
The Inkatha Freedom Party echoed the DA’s sentiments, calling for Zuma’s head.
“Mr Zuma has actively pursued a downgrade against all sound advice and warnings; and last week with his rogue cabinet reshuffle he put in the final nail into our economic coffin. On the back of this downgrade by Standard and Poor’s, Mr Zuma must resign,” said IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa.
“The so-called reshuffle was nothing but a pure political purge with its sight set on capturing National Treasury to loot the public purse; and the consequences for South Africa is a hard hitting downgrade to junk status.”
The Freedom Front Plus (FF+) said the downgrade was proof that Zuma continued to put his own private interests above those of the country.
“It will be the consumers who will pay the price for this because there is a risk that interest rates could rise significantly in the future, the economic growth rate will be more limited and taxpayers will have to pay for increased interest on government debt,” said FF+ leader Pieter Groenewald.
“The financial suffering of the people of South Africa will only get worse as the financial pressure on the country mounts, and it’s all caused by pres. Jacob Zuma.”
African News Agency