Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
- Deny, deny, deny is the response those implicated by the Gupta leaks are giving. President Jacob Zuma says that the leaks are nothing but allegations and rumours, while finance minister Malusi Gigaba says that they prove nothing, especially not any wrongdoing. A jovial Zuma closed off the presidential budget speech debate by ranting an empty opposition benches, saying they are drugged by negative propaganda.
- Meanwhile, the leaked emails continue to delve deeper into state capture, with the latest revelation being the Gupta allies helped Eskom chair Ben Ngubane write his first speech as Eskom chair. The emails show strong ties between Ngubane and Salim Essa, the chair of Trillian, who is heavily mixed up in the Eskom-Gupta businesses. The company has been accused of siphoning hundreds of millions off of Eskom and passing it on to Gupta companies.
- Another new revelation revolves around PR firm Bell Pottinger, whose email correspondence wit the Guptas confirms earlier reports that the group was hired to salvage the reputation of the Gupta and Zuma families. The emails show how the topic of ‘economic emancipation’ was to be turned into a political tool, and how the ANC Youth League and MK Vets regurgitated the propaganda. The email also confirmed the GBP100,000 a month fee.
- South Africa managed to skip another downgrade from ratings firm Fitch, with finance minister Malusi Gigaba managing to convince the group that the country is not going to be making any fundamental changes to economic policy. However, the country still has to go through two more rounds, with a review from S&P Global expected soon, and a Moody’s review to follow. S&P’s decision is expected today.
- South Africa’s rand rose to its firmest in three sessions on Thursday after Fitch kept its credit rating unchanged at one notch below investment, while increased pressure on President Jacob Zuma also lifted the currency and bonds. On Friday the rand was trading at R12.90 to the dollar, R16.60 to the pound and R14.47 to the euro.