Ramaphosa loses confidence of SA business

Over policy missteps
Foreign investors have sold a net US$10.5 billion of South African government bonds this year, adding to US$15.9 billion of net sales last year.
Colleen Goko, S'thembile Cele and Adelaide Changole
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has lost the confidence of a key constituency. Five years after ushering in a wave of business optimism that he'd revive an economy hobbled by industrial-scale corruption under his predecessor, executives are running out of patience with the 70-year-old leader.

Economic stagnation spawned by record daily power outages, rampant crime, disintegrating infrastructure and foreign policy missteps is leading investors to the exits, with the rand fast-approaching a record low of 20 per dollar.

The business community's growing disaffection with Ramaphosa's administration was expected to be a topic of discussion at talks between his deputy, Paul Mashatile, and company executives on Friday evening.

The mood going into the meeting was summed up by Investec Group Chief Executive Officer Fani Titi.

"We are going nowhere fast," he said in an interview. "The government is disorganised. Totally disorganised."

Business leaders raised concerns about issues affecting their constituents in their discussions with Mashatile, the presidency said in a statement after the meeting on Friday night.

"They urged the government to work with a greater sense of urgency in attending to the energy crisis, crime and corruption, and processing of applications relating to statutory obligations hindering their ability to conduct business effectively," it said.

Foreign investors have sold a net US$10.5 billion (R204 billion) of South African government bonds this year, adding to US$15.9 billion (R309 billion) of net sales last year. Non-residents held just 26% of government bonds at the end of April, down from a high of 43% in March 2018, the month after Ramaphosa came to office, National Treasury data shows.

Meanwhile, government borrowing costs have surged. The generic 10-year yield climbed to a three-year high of 12.18% on Friday, compared with about 9.05% in February 2018 when Ramaphosa took office.

The rand has lost 39% of its value over the period, the worst performance among major emerging-market currencies after the Turkish lira and Argentine peso. Options traders assign an 85% chance to the rand weakening to below 20 per dollar this year.


"Ramaphosa is not considered a positive leader by financial markets going forward," said Matt Gertken, chief geopolitical strategist at BCA Research. "He is old and suffering from scandals, he failed to implement significant structural economic reforms, he failed to mend divisions" in the ruling party and now his credibility will suffer due to his foreign policy, he said.

In a succession of speeches and newsletters, the president has acknowledged the enormity of the challenges confronting the country, while highlighting his administration's attempts to tackle corruption and draw foreign investment.

"There is continuing confidence and trust between government, business and labour," Ramaphosa said in an interview in Paarl, near Cape Town, on Friday. "We are always consulting each other and we all know that the challenges this country faces cannot be solved by each acting alone."

MTN Group Chief Executive Officer Ralph Mupita and Nedbank Group Chairman-designate Daniel Mminele have both warned that South Africa risks becoming a failed state unless its myriad problems are addressed. While most executives have steered clear of openly calling for Ramaphosa to go, that option is increasingly being discussed in business circles.

One CEO who declared she's lost faith in the president is Magda Wierzycka, who heads asset manager Sygnia.

"I had no idea of how wrong I was going to be" in endorsing Ramaphosa when he took over as president, she said on Twitter. Instead of trying to turn the country around, the government had displayed apathy, patronage politics had continued, and there had been no "change for all South Africans," she said.-Fin24


Allgemeine Zeitung 2023-05-28

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