Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
- Finance minister Pravin Gordhan is maintaining that fraud charges pushed against him by the National Prosecuting Authority are politically motivated. He said that it was clear that the process had been contaminated by political forces – and he vowed he would not be deterred in doing his job: making sure government branches would not blow open Treasury and loot the country’s money.
- South Africa is inching ever closer to junk status or worse, following fraud charges being laid against Gordhan – though the news was not surprising, analysts say. According to Nomura’s Peter Attard Montalto, ratings agencies are more focused on the country’s fiscal policies than its politics, but if Gordhan was given the boot this week, there is a risk that South Africa could enter a downgrade cycle, where it is cut to junk sooner, and then cut further upon review in December.
- There are reports of a “mass exodus” of academics being planned at South Africa’s top universities, as student protests continue to disrupt the academic year, keeping campuses shut down. According to anonymous reports from UCT, lecturers and PHD students have already started looking elsewhere – particularly overseas – for a more stable environment to work and complete their studies. South Africa already faces a brain drain problem, which is now likely to be exacerbated.
- Exiting Public Protector Thuli Madonsela will be releasing her findings into state capture in two parts – the first on Friday, her last day in office, and the second at a later stage, which will be dealt with by her successor. Madonsela has already briefed incoming PP, Busisiwe Mkhwebane on what steps need to be taken after she leaves. Madonsela’s investigation has been frustrated by a lack of cooperation from President Jacob Zuma, and legal threats by the Gupta family.
- South Africa’s rand plunged on Tuesday after prosecutors ordered Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to appear in court to face fraud charges, adding to months of political uncertainty. Following the news, the rand plunged over 3% almost immediately, and continued to decline for the rest of the day. On Wednesday, the rand was trading at R14.34 to the dollar, R17.57 to the pound and R15.83 to the euro.
In other news: According to new research from the Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, the South African government is not doing enough to protect citizens in Joburg from harmful, toxic waste that is seeping into rivers and water supplies. The toxic waste comes from mine dumps and mining activity around the city.