Opposition parties collectively called for the urgent axing of Jacob Zuma as president following South Africa’s downgrade to junk status by Standard & Poor’s rating agency.
On Monday evening the agency lowered South Africa’s long-term foreign currency sovereign credit rating to BB+ from BBB and the long-term local currency rating to BBB- from BBB, placing South Africa’s credit outlook at junk status.
To put it plainly, the agency believes the likelihood of South Africa paying its foreign debt is low; South Africa is seen as a risk.
The rating agency has reacted to a week that has seen a worrying fluctuation of the rand after the president reshuffled the Cabinet, including firing the finance minister and his deputy, Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas, along with other ministers and deputies.
“The negative outlook reflects our view that political risks will remain elevated this year, and that policy shifts are likely, which could undermine fiscal and economic growth outcomes more than we currently project,” said the agency.
Earlier on Monday, the leaders of the Economic Freedom Front (EFF, Dali Mpofu and Godrich Gardee), United Democratic Movement (UDM, Bantu Holomisa), Democratic Alliance (DA, Mmusi Maimane), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP, Mangaqa Mncwango), African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP, Kenneth Meshoe) and Congress of the People (Cope, Mosiuoa Lekota) met in Johannesburg to draw up a joint statement.
They were reacting to the president’s Cabinet reshuffle, which they described as a “hostile takeover of the treasury, and selling of the country by Jacob Zuma to a grouping whose only interests are amassing wealth and weakening the state through the theft of the people’s money and the undermining of the country’s Constitution”.
The opposition parties concluded that they are, “united in their call for Zuma to go and our belief in the supremacy of the Constitution. The choice South Africans must make is: Zuma or South Africa. The two cannot co-exist.”
Just hours after the opposition parties’ meeting, Standard & Poor’s made its credit downgrade. The opposition parties again called for Zuma to be axed.
The IFP’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa said: “Mr Zuma is not fit for purpose. He must just once in his life do what is in the best interests of South Africa and resign. We can ill-afford continuing with this rogue man masquerading as president. This downgrade was actively engineered by Mr Zuma because of his hard-headed attitude and arrogant approach to rational thought about what is good for South Africa.”
The EFF echoed the call for Zuma to step down saying: “We find ourselves in this situation because the ANC prioritised pleasing the market at the expense of meaningful redistributive economic policies. In addition, we are here because Jacob Zuma has elected to put the business interests of the Guptas above the interests of the country … The only thing that will now save us is to remove the ANC out of power, which has lost control of Zuma.”
The DA, which tabled a motion of no confidence in Zuma on March 30, said: “President Zuma should resign immediately to allow a new administration to stabilise our economy, and to stanch this growing crisis. Standard & Poor’s decision comes just days after President Zuma reshuffled his cabinet – sending shudders of uncertainty and volatility through our economy.”