Bruce’s List: A guide to informed reads.

As a newspaper, The Times has come into its own under the editorship of Stephen Haw. It was initially launched in an effort to boost subscriptions to the Sunday Times (you got The Times for free if you subscribed to the Sunday Times) but Haw has managed to stand it up as a real newspaper in its own right. It is a good, serious read and more than enough competition to the bigger and better-established general dailies in SA. I first felt a disturbance in the force, from Haw, after another giggling performance in parliament by President Jacob Zuma before the Nkandla issue was settled. “What’s so funny?” read The Times’ front page lead headline, which ran across a string of photos showing the president laughing at MPs trying to get him to tell the truth. It was inspired. And the same thing happened this morning, when Haw ran “In a world of his own” in the same space. This in response to Zuma’s preposterous assertion in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) yesterday that he could not prevent the charging of finance minister Pravin Gordhan on November 2 because “if this president was to interfere in any matter, either chapter 9 institutions or other institutions, then (SA) would be closer to (becoming) a banana republic”.

Closer hmm? At least he has a sense we’re already on that road. Haw cleverly allows Zuma to sink himself with long verbatim quotes from the answers he gave to questions posed in the NCOP. You really do have to ask what planet he lives on. I loved the bit about the new Brics ratings agency: 'Jacob Zuma living in a world of his own'.

And Business Day has a stonking front page lead today where it reveals that a report done for the ANC leadership — in the wake of the local government elections, the Nkandla scandal and mounting evidence of state capture — recommended that Zuma and his entire ANC national executive step down. It is exactly what ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu has called for, and for which Mthembu has attracted much heat. The end approaches people, inexorably: ANC regions wanted Zuma, NEC to resign.

Back to that Brics ratings agency. The Financial Mail gets it spot on in its main editorial. It is an ideological frippery that will achieve nothing. Already, the markets in the form of credit default swaps (effectively insurance) costs on South African sovereign debt are as high as they are on Brazilian and Turkish debt. Both those countries have fallen into junk status and the FM makes the obvious point that the ratings agencies usually follow the markets, rather than the other way around: Editorial: The madness of a Brics ‘ratings club’.

Meanwhile, as Gordhan readies himself to deliver his medium-term budget policy statement in parliament later today, economist Mike Schüssler has written this excellent and thoughtful piece for Moneyweb. If you want a guide to the economic trouble we’re in, with a retrospective look at treasury’s often rose-tinted view of our prospects, this is it: Three serious, unbelievable numbers SA’s not complied with.

And the ever-reliable and thoughtful Gavin Keeton explains exactly what would happen if we are downgraded. It isn’t all doom and gloom but it’s bad nonetheless: Downgrade would set dominoes toppling.

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