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South Africa: Influential ANC official warns of ‘mafia state’ in Govt and Gupta links row

Posted on Thursday, 17 March 2016 10:48

Gwede Mantashe, Secretary General of South Africa’s ruling party, ANC, on Thursday warned that the country could “degenerate into a mafia state” in what is likely to further dent confidence in Zuma’s presidency.

Mantashe’s comments came after deputy finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas rocked government when he said on Wednesday that a wealthy family with close ties to President Zuma may have been behind his decision to sack the country’s respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December.

The opposition called for the resignation of Zuma following the claims made by Jonas that the Gupta family had offered him Nene’s job. Jonas said he had rejected it immediately on the grounds that such a move violated South Africa’s democracy.

But in a rebuttal on Thursday, Zuma told parliament that none of his ministers “was ever appointed by the Guptas”.

Not in best interest

South Africa’s Chamber of Mines said on Thursday it was concerned by the links between the state and the Gupta family adding that undue political influence on the industry was not in the country’s best interests.

“The latest revelations of potential Gupta family involvement in the selection of Cabinet Ministers in South Africa, in processes contrary to the country’s Constitution, are of serious concern to the South African mining industry,” the chamber body said in a statement.

The country’s former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene said on Thursday he would not comment on allegations that powerful businessmen close to President Jacob Zuma were involved in his removal. “I cannot help you,” he told Reuters.

South Africa’s rand fell early Thursday after claims that a wealthy family with close ties to President Jacob Zuma may have been behind his decision to sack the country’s respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December.

Pravin Gordhan

Jonas’ claims concerning the Guptas came just as a prolonged row between Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and the elite Hawks police unit has raised concerns that the run on the rand and bonds seen in December when Nene was fired could be repeated.

Gordhan’s confrontation with the police and the claims by Jonas come in the same week that rating’s agency Moody’s was expected to be in the country to decide on whether to downgrade the country’s credit rating, which is two notches above “junk”.

Investors fear further political uncertainty could hasten a downgrade, with Fitch and Standard & Poor’s already rating the country just one step above subinvestment grade.

“The whale in the room is that the ANC could recall (remove) the president this weekend,” said chief analyst at Rand Merchant Bank John Cairns in a note. “Like or hate the idea, the reality is that due process needs to be followed. Do not let emotions run away: just as Jonah survived three days inside the whale, President Zuma will survive much longer than three days after Jonas’ revelation.”

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