Thursday, 11 February 2016

Wobbly Zuma walks tightrope at address

Warning signs are all over the road, now it's up to President Jacob Zuma to drive South Africa out of trouble and onto the path to recovery.

Today Zuma delivers his State of the Nation Address amid planned protests and a litany of woes.

Captains of industry who this week met Zuma have made it clear a new path is needed urgently.

Will Zuma listen to them or stick to the ANC's economic plan that is high on promises and low on details?

Goolam Ballim, chief economist at Standard Bank, said Zuma's policy errors at the end of last year may be the catalyst that pushes the government to implement reforms needed to avert a credit-rating downgrade to junk.

Ballim said the replacement of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene by lightweight MP David van Rooyen in December rattled the markets and forced Zuma to rescind his decision. Four days later he reinstalled Pravin Gordhan to the position.

"The events of December may have been the cathartic experience South Africa needed," Ballim said.
With business confidence at a low and pressure to kick-start the economy, Zuma will walk a tightrope this evening. File photo... Image by: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Liza van Deventer
"It has dawned on the authorities that the risk of falling into sub-investment grade looms perilously large."

With business confidence at a low and pressure to kick-start the economy, Zuma will walk a tightrope this evening.

A survey by Media Tenor yesterday said perceptions of Zuma were at their lowest following the bizarre juggling act of three finance ministers in one week.

Media Tenor researcher Jordan Griffiths said: "One of the most notable changes in media reporting this year, compared to last year, is the prominence of the country's economic situation. With the country's weakened currency and poor growth, economic reporting was among the key drivers of coverage of the president.

"Now in the run-up to [this year's] address, the topic structure on the president has changed. The Constitutional Court case on Nkandla has directed media reporting. The economic situation . has also directed media attention," said Griffiths.

The Constitutional Court hearing this week around the powers of the public protector - which Zuma ignored and challenged until last week - has left the president heading to parliament a diminished man.

Besides protests in Cape Town, the #ZumaMustFall campaign is staging marches and sit-ins in Pretoria, Durban and Johannesburg.

By yesterday afternoon the parliamentary precinct was awash with uniformed and undercover police as security inside and outside was jacked up in anticipation of today's showdown.

The brunt of the state's muscle is expected to be felt by the EFF, which has promised it would not let Zuma start his speech until he explained why he fired Nene. Source: TimesLive
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