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Sat Oct 01 03:31:29 SAST 2016

Sorry spectacle for ratings agency envoys visiting SA

The Times Editorial | 16 March, 2016 00:10

Many global investors, who together hold hundreds of billions of rands worth of South Africa's debt, are impressed by Pravin Gordhan.

The finance minister, who held investor road shows in the US and UK last week in an effort to shore up our increasingly vulnerable investment-grade sovereign credit rating, came across as a diligent, patriotic public servant anxious to do his best by his country.

After the London event, Claudia Calich, head of emerging debt at M&G Investments, had this to say, according to news agency Reuters: ''I left the place thinking the minister has good intentions; I hope he stays in his job.''

At home, Gordhan, who had to be parachuted into the finance ministry in December to repair the damage wrought by President Jacob Zuma when he fired the widely respected Nhlanhla Nene, has been under siege virtually from Day 1.

The rand, which collapsed after the Nene debacle, recovered after Gordhan's appointment, but plummeted again last month when it emerged that our priority crimes unit, the Hawks, had sought to grill Gordhan just days before he was due to present the most critical Budget in our history.

Coupled with the leaking to the media of 27 questions from the Hawks to Gordhan about an alleged ''rogue unit'' set up under his watch at the SA Revenue Service in 2009, came the news that the current tax chief was flouting the new finance minister's instructions.

Although Zuma promised to sort out the rift between the finance minister and the SARS commissioner, the Hawks appear to have been given leave by the police minister - and surely the president himself - to carry on with their public campaign to undermine Gordhan.

The police unit proclaimed yesterday that its investigation would not be stalled by "an individual who refuses to comply with the authorities and demands preferential treatment".

All this on the eve of a visit to the country by Moody's Investor Services to review our credit rating.

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