South Africa not falling apart, insists president

South Africa is not “falling apart” and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) can run the continent’s biggest economy, President Jacob Zuma said yesterday, as he sought to dispel the concerns of rating agencies and investors about sluggish growth.

In his opening address to an ANC conference to choose its leadership for the next five years, Zuma said two downgrades by ratings agencies this year did not mean South Africa was in trouble.

“We want to dismiss the perceptions that our country is falling apart because of the downgrades,” he said. “We continue to do our development work, we continue to plan for a recovery.”

At the conference this week in the central city of Bloemfontein, Zuma, 70, is expected to garner enough support to head off a challenge to his party chief post from deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe.

Retaining the ANC leadership puts Zuma in pole position to secure a second five-year term as South Africa’s president in the next national election in 2014.

Spicing up the contest for top ANC jobs, former mineworkers’ leader and anti-apartheid hero Cyril Ramaphosa, now one of South Africa’s richest men, has agreed to stand for the post of ANC deputy president.

“He (Ramaphosa) is running,” a senior party official told Reuters yesterday.

In his address, Zuma touched on Nelson Mandela, who has been hospitalised since Dec 8 for tests while receiving treatment for a lung infection.

He also underwent a successful gallstone surgery on Saturday.

“He is receiving good care from a competent and caring medical team,” Zuma said. “We wish him and the family all the best during this time.”

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