Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: NEDGROUP INVESTMENTS
Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: NEDGROUP INVESTMENTS

There will be "no worries" about downgrades if Cyril Ramaphosa and his team get to implement the deputy president’s "new deal" proposition, former finance minister Pravin Gordhan says.

Gordhan made it clear that he wanted Ramaphosa to take over as ANC president in December at "The Gathering" in Sandton on Thursday night. The function was hosted by online publication Daily Maverick.

Gordhan’s comment came as Fitch reaffirmed SA’s status at sub-investment grade with a stable outlook on Thursday. It also came a day before S&P Global Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service are scheduled to make announcements. Fitch is the only one of the three ratings agencies to have South Africa’s local and foreign debt in junk territory.

The first downgrades followed the midnight Cabinet reshuffle in which Gordhan was axed along with his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas. Gordhan told the audience the highly contested December conference "is a critical conference, both for the ANC itself and for the country".

DA leader Mmusi Maimane earlier on Thursday said the new deal Ramaphosa is proposing is DA policy, which Gordhan denied, saying it has "nothing to do with the DA".

Ramaphosa launched his economic plan last week in Soweto. He said bold, decisive and collective decisions must be taken to get SA out of its current situation. His "new deal" would change SA’s dire economic trajectory. His ten-point plan sets a 3% GDP growth target in 2018 that should rise to 5% growth by 2023.

"If we get that team going we have no worries about downgrades, we will see a change in growth … you will see increasing inclusivity over the next two to three years and a different kind of optimism in the country," Gordhan told the audience.

Nodding at Ramaphosa’s plan, Gordhan said things needed to be done differently, with new ideas and a new style of leadership.

"The current leadership in the country has failed us. It has failed us because its preoccupation has been to fill certain people’s bank accounts. The priorities are not you or the 55-million citizens," Gordhan said.

He said the "experiment" conducted in 2016 when government worked closely with business, labour and an active civil society ahead of looming ratings downgrades was something to be repeated and intensified. All available skills in SA should be utilised.

He said new leadership would bring change to SA’s economy.

Gordhan was at the launch of Ramaphosa’s plan last week, along with members of the business community.

Gordhan, who is on Parliament’s public enterprises committee, also hit out at an unnamed minister, likely to be State Security Minister Bongani Bongo.

The Sunday Times reported that Bongo approached evidence leader Nthuthuzelo Vanara‚ offering him a blank cheque to resign from the inquiry. Vanara laid out the allegations in an affidavit sent to Parliament’s management.

"To have someone appointed to Cabinet bribing people.… Bribing someone on behalf of a board member of Eskom, is quite a tragedy," Gordhan said.

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