The team that African National Congress President Jacob Zuma selected – should the party prevail in the upcoming April 22 election, as anticipated – would arguably be the most crucial signal to investors as to the future direction of government policy, Control Risks Southern Africa analyst Anne Fruehauf asserted on Monday.
She added that should South Africa’s internationally respected Finance Minister be elevated to a key position in the proposed ‘Super Cabinet’, it would also be well received, even if it meant Trevor Manuel giving up his current vital portfolio.
Speaking at the release of the global risk consultancy’s ‘RiskMap 2009’, Fruehauf said there was significant uncertainty as to South Africa’s future economic-policy emphasis under Zuma, particularly given that he was in the process of “having to renegotiate the party’s relationship with its increasingly vocal alliance partners on the left”.
“Not known for his independent policy agenda, and somewhat of a political chameleon, Zuma will essentially be the sum of those with whom he surrounds himself,” she stated, adding that the President’s team would, therefore, be “an absolutely crucial indicator of where we are headed”.
Investors would pay particular attention to the Finance Ministry appointment, especially given recent signals that the incumbent might not be retained and uncertainty about South Africa’s macroeconomic policy trajectory.
Indeed, Fruehauf stressed that there was “a distinct possibility that [Kgalema] Motlanthe will not be a member of the new Cabinet” and that “Manuel’s term as Finance Minister may well be over”.
“At the moment, there is speculation that Manuel could be replaced by Tito Mboweni or even Pravin Gordhan, but to tell you the truth it is absolutely impossible, at this stage, to say with confidence that either of those two would prevail.
“If they do, then this will send an immediate positive signal to the market and investors will react extremely positively.”
Investors would also welcome any move to offer Manuel a senior position, such as the Deputy Presidency, within the new, probably reconstituted, Cabinet structure.
“Of course, if his [Manuel’s] new role in the super Cabinet were to be in charge of planning, it would be extremely well received,” Fruehauf stated.
“The problem at this point, is that I am not confident that he would be heading up that portfolio.
“Neither am I confident that he would be given the Deputy Presidency . . . [but] it would be a huge signal to the markets if they put in a key portfolio.”