South Africa’s probe of finance minister must not scare investors: deputy president

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South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (3rd R) stands next to Temasek Holdings Chairman Lim Boon Heng for a group photo during his visit to Singapore October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Staff
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By Marius Zaharia and Fathin Ungku

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – An investigation into South Africa’s finance minister must take its course but needs to avoid rattling investors, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday, amid speculation of a power struggle in the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

An elite police unit is investigating Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan over a so-called “rogue spy” unit at the tax agency, set up when he was at its helm.

Some analysts say President Jacob Zuma’s allies are driving the probe in a bid to oust Gordhan, something the president denied.

The affair has rocked markets in Africa’s most industrialised economy.

The ANC suffered its worst-ever local election results last month, widening rifts in the ruling party that analysts blame on a conflict between Zuma and Gordhan.

Three weeks ago, Zuma and Gordhan sat side-by-side in a show of solidarity after weeks of speculation that the pair are locked in a bitter power struggle.

Ramaphosa, said that while “nobody is above the law”, the way the situation has been handled by state institutions was a cause of “concern”.

“Nothing must be done to cause problems or difficulties in state institutions such as the treasury and also cause an imbalance on our economic future,” Ramaphosa told reporters at the end of a three-day official visit to Singapore.

“So it is very important that whatever we do, we must be very, very careful … that we don’t threaten investors because it will cause a lot of angst and concern among the people of South Africa”.

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The speculation about a conflict between Zuma and Gordhan has weighed on the rand currency recently. In comments unrelated to the investigation on Gordhan, Ramaphosa said the country needed a stronger rand to cut import costs.

“We want a more stabilized, stronger rand … stronger than it has been in recent weeks to make imports more affordable,” Ramaphosa said.”We import diesel, petrol, machinery and it costs the country quite a lot.”

On Friday, the rand was 0.3 percent weaker against the dollar at 13.9325.

Ramaphosa saw his chances of becoming the country’s next leader increase late last month when the powerful mining union he helped found backed him to succeed Zuma.

Ramaphosa said the ANC leadership was concerned about the loss of support, but did not comment on whether he will run.

(Reporting by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Simo Cameron-Moore)

 

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