Chance To Shine At World Economic Forum For South Africa’s Gordhan, Ramaphosa

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Written by Dana Sanchez

At the World Economic Forum, where finance ministers attract as much attention as presidents, South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s presence this week in Davos is expected to be a show of strength, leadership and survival, Times Live reported.

It will also be a rare opportunity for South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to shine on the world stage, Biz News reported. President Jacob Zuma will not be attending.

“The World Economic Forum is not exactly Zuma’s happy place,” Alec Hogg wrote in Biz News. “Last year, participants arriving in Davos were greeted by a full page article in a leading Swiss newspaper headlined ‘A toxic President’ – complete with the most unflattering pic you’re likely to see (Zuma slumped over, asleep, at a conference).”

In 2016 in Davos, Zuma was a no-show at a panel discussion.

Gordhan was asked to serve a second term as finance minister in December 2015 after a bizarre, four-day, four-finance-minister sequence that started when President Jacob Zuma replaced highly respected Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene with a relative unknown, Des van Rooyen. The volatility affected the value of the rand.

The subsequent support Gordhan received from the business community is an indication of his strength, Times Live reported.

Zuma astonished the world and his leadership was questioned further when fraud charges were filed against Gordhan and two other former South African Revenue Service officials. Charges were dropped in November shortly before Gorhand was due in court.

All this has made Gordhan look presidential, according to one account.

“Lack of leadership by the president in managing South Africa’s economic crisis had created a gap for Gordhan to provide … leadership in a way that bestowed on him either the perception or reality of being president of South Africa,” reporter Asha Speckman wrote in Times Live.

At the World Economic Forum this week, Gordhan is expected to present a picture of someone who survived politically for the past year, and helped South Africa escape a downgrade by credit ratings agencies, said political economy analyst Daniel Silke.

This will give Gordhan “some gravitas” and credit for steering “the ship in very difficult terrain,” Silke said.

Deputy South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead 59 South African delegates including CEOs of telecom and media companies, senior cabinet ministers, and top mining and financial services leaders.

These include Max Price, vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town; Sipho Pityana, chairman of AngloGold Ashanti; Phuthuma Nhleko, chairman of MTN; and Sim Tshabalala, joint CEO of Standard Bank, Times Live reported.

Many of the delegates supported Gordhan in 2016 in his efforts to avert a credit ratings downgrade.

Gordhan will not be accompanied by his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, or National Treasury Director General Lungisa Fuzile.

Under Gordhan’s leadership, the Treasury promised to cut public spending and debt and grow the economy — considered key to preserving the country’s investment-grade rating. Gordhan also pushed for an internship program to get more youth into the job market and a funding plan for small businesses.

A credit ratings downgrade is still possible and that could threaten Gordhan’s tenure.
This will be an awkward year for him — more of the same — Silke said.

The ruling ANC’s energy is focused on who will succeed Zuma, said political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi. That could mean paralysis when it comes to policy making and implementation, which may not be a bad thing. “It may create opportunity in some parts of the state for people to do what they believe needs to be done as the ruling party is focusing on the succession battle,” Matshiqi said.

On the sidelines of the 2017 World Economic Forum, Ramaphosa is expected to participate in five sessions including building a new water economy and public-private co-operation.

In addition to Gordhan, other government delegates include Jeff Radebe, Minister of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation; Rob Davie, Minister of Trade and Industry; Ebrahim Patel, Economic Minister; Nomvula Mokonyane, Water and Sanitation Minister and Sihle Zikalala with KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, according to a government press release.

The theme of this year’s forum is “Responsive and Responsible Leadership.” More than 2,700 world leaders in the public and private sectors are expected at the forum, scheduled from Tuesday to Friday to discuss the global economy.

“Having Ramaphosa lead Team SA is not a bad thing.” Hogg wrote for Biz News. “It will be a rare opportunity for him to shine on the global stage, well away from his tainted boss’s dark shadow. Cyril could certainly do with sprinkling some sparkle on his presidential ambitions. But most of all, this spares the rest of us the sickening hypocrisy of warring ANC factions attempting to show the world a united front.”