‘We don’t work for ratings agencies, we work for the country’

Gwede Mantashe says it seems Standard & Poor’s doesn't want to rate the country but tell it what to do.

ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe at a post-NEC briefing on 21 May, 2012. Picture: Tshepo Lesole/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – African National Congress (ANC) Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe has called on ratings agencies to stop meddling in governance and party issues, saying they must concentrate on rating the country and not telling it what to do.

Mantashe briefed the media at Luthuli House on Monday, following the party's national executive committee lekgotla at the weekend.

It was reported that during a panel discussion, Standard and Poor's (S&P) managing director Konrad Reuss said that a cabinet reshuffle could hurt the country's assessment by the rating agency.

The African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL) also reacted strongly to this over the weekend, accusing the agency of employing scare tactics.

The secretary-general says it seems S&P doesn't want to rate the country but tell it what to do and he says this smells of mischief.

“This cannot be accepted – we are not working for a rating agency, we are working for the country. The rating agency must rate on the work we do in the country.”

He has cautioned ratings agencies against entering debates around cabinet reshuffle and ANC succession.

“Once the rating agency begins to tell us who should be the next president, then it is entering a space which is dangerous.”

The ANCWL says Reuss's comments undermine President Jacob Zuma's right to appoint his cabinet and make changes where necessary.

South Africa narrowly avoided being downgraded by the major ratings agencies last year, against the backdrop of what many saw as a political battle for power between Zuma and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for control of the National Treasury.