The Presidency moved to counter the negative publicity SA has been attracting abroad, with President Jacob Zuma’s spokesman,, insisting it was “grossly incorrect” to suggest SA was “on a downhill slide”.
Maharaj was responding to last week’s cover story by the influential business journal The Economist, headlined “Cry the beloved country – South Africa’s sad decline”.
The assertions in the article “cannot go unchallenged as they are so misleading”, Maharaj said in a statement issued on Sunday.
“It is grossly incorrect to suggest that South Africa is on a downhill slide.”
He said while two ratings agencies may have downgraded SA’s creditworthiness, many other countries had experienced the same fate.
“It is a sign of the times. The world is going through a period of serious economic upheaval,” Maharaj said.
“Despite the challenges, South Africa is getting many things right,” he insisted.
The article notes: “According to the World Economic Forum, South Africa ranks 132nd out of 144 countries for its primary education, and 143rd in science and maths.”
It also notes that since Nelson Mandela retired in 1999, the country had been “woefully led”.
Maharaj said SA was privileged to have had Mandela as its first democratically elected president. However, this did not make the country immune from economic, social or political challenges, more so given the legacy arising from colonial oppression and apartheid, he said.
“Despite the challenges, South Africa is getting many things right.
“The economy possesses the necessary dynamism to position the country as a competitive player in a difficult global economic environment. In direct contrast to the Economist article, a strong vote of confidence on South Africa was given in the last week by the international business community with the country’s recent inclusion in Citigroup’s World Government Bond Index.”
Maharaj said SA’s success was visible when benchmarking the country against other emerging market economies such as the Brics and Next 11 countries.
“With regards to financial market development, South Africa ranks first among the Brics nations and third overall in the world.”
His statement came as Zuma continued to come under attack at home, particularly over the spending of hundreds of millions of rand of public funds on his private homestead at Nkandla, KZN.
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa accused Zuma of underestimating South Africans’ intelligence and misleading the country by claiming last week that a large part of the work at the estate had been done by his family.
City Press on Sunday said it had documents revealing that multimillion-rand payments to at least nine contractors had been authorised last Friday, just days before Zuma emerged from a summit of government, business and labour to address the crisis in the mining sector, where it was agreed that private sector executives would commit to a salaries and bonus freeze.
But while “Nkandlagate” has provided the opposition a stick with which to beat the ANC, it is the wildcat strikes, violence and intimidation disrupting production in the mining sector that are causing jitters among investors and that prompted the critical assessments published last week.
The government also came under fire in articles in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Financial Times following the decision by ratings agencies to downgrade SA’s sovereign debt rating.
Cosatu has called on Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to spur the police to get to the bottom of “the wave of violence, intimidation and killings of National Union of Mineworkers shop stewards and activists. Cosatu said it believed there was a concerted campaign to “wipe out” NUM in the beleaguered platinum sector. – Cape Argus