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We can’t have this way of creating uncertainty in the market – Dennis George

‘The statement by the Presidency breaks social dialogue, partnerships.’

PRINESHA NAIDOO: The presidency has confirmed that Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, have been instructed to cancel an international investor roadshow and to return to South Africa from London. FEDUSA’s Dennis George, who was meant to participate in the roadshow, joins us on the line. Dennis, thank you for your time.

DENNIS GEORGE: Good evening to your listeners.

PRINESHA NAIDOO: Dennis, to the best of your knowledge what is the status of this roadshow?

DENNIS GEORGE: From our side we received a full itinerary a long time ago. We have also previously done similar roadshows, where the social partners, business and labour accompany the finance minister to strengthen the dialogue with the ratings agencies and the investors. I’ve already made my flight arrangements. I’ve also made arrangements to fly through to London tonight.

When I spoke to the finance minister this morning I told him that, irrespective of the statement by the presidency, FEDUSA is going to continue with this particular roadshow. My advice to him would be, obviously, to continue because the best thing we can do is to tell people what’s happening in our country. These people have put huge amounts of money and they buy bonds and it’s irresponsible for us to cancel something like this on a global scale. People are not going to trust us in the future.

PRINESHA NAIDOO: When you spoke to the minister earlier, as you mentioned, what exactly did he say to you about the roadshow?

DENNIS GEORGE: For us the roadshow is sacrosanct, we’ve also done a roadshow after what happened on December 9 2015. The president also came back this year in the State of the Nation to thank Team South Africa for the excellent work that we have been doing. Now, why do you want to do something like that, where you praise the social partners, business and labour, and then only now to come unilaterally… We’ve spent huge amounts of money to pay for our flights ourselves, pay for our hotel accommodation. I don’t think that is fair and correct.

PRINESHA NAIDOO: Have the reasons as to why the presidency decided to call the finance minister and the deputy finance minister back been communicated to participants on the roadshow?

DENNIS GEORGE: Nothing has been communicated to us at all. When I spoke to Mr Jabu Mabuza in London this morning, the president of Business Unity South Africa and Business Leadership South Africa, nothing was told to us. We can’t have this kind of way of creating uncertainty in the market. You’ve seen what’s happened to the rand already. You can’t deal with this self-inflicted pain.

PRINESHA NAIDOO: Now, as I understand, one of the objectives of an investor roadshow, especially internationally, is to convey the potential of investing in South Africa, as well as to inform investors of the economic prospects. Can you tell us who you were meant to meet with and what message you were trying to convey?

DENNIS GEORGE: The people we were meeting were the ratings agencies – S&P, Moody’s and Fitch. Then the people we were looking at were people who normally buy South African bonds. We have a long schedule, three pages of people. What we normally do is we meet with them one-on-one. The meetings normally last for about half an hour, where we give them an overview, a prospectus, and we normally use a budget review for 2017 to answer any questions, so that they get the proper information. So that’s the kind of methodology and process that we use. But what is sad for us is that the president has issued this unilateral statement, which is very, very sad and it breaks down social dialogue, it breaks down social partnerships – and I will be very surprised if investors will ever trust government. 

PRINESHA NAIDOO: How will this affect the message that you are trying to get across, the fact that you are trying to reassure international investors?

DENNIS GEORGE: The basic issue is that all of us know that the government is divided into two groups, the one group that wants to do the right thing, which is being marshalled by the finance minister and the National Treasury, and then there’s the other group of people who have been busy for the last number of years under the “premier league” and all these people, as they’ve been called. So there are two ruling parties in operation at the moment. The other thing is the Treasury and the people from the finance ministry – those are people whom you can’t corrupt, they will always act in the best interests of South Africa. I think it’s important that we must restore confidence and we need to move forward.

PRINESHA NAIDOO: Dennis, that’s where we are going to leave it with you this evening, thank you for joining us. That was Dennis George, general secretary of FEDUSA.

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