(Reuters) - South Africa will not fail and the economy will stay rational under the leadership of Jacob Zuma, likely to become president after Wednesday’s general election, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said on Wednesday.
Manuel, respected by investors for his pro-business policies, also reiterated in an interview with Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, published on Wednesday that he was willing to serve in a new government after the vote, which should return the ruling ANC to power.
Investors fear Zuma could steer the economy towards the Left to please powerful labour unions and the Communist party which helped him secure victory against former President Thabo Mbeki in a bruising battle for leadership of the ANC in December 2007.
“I know he is a man of great capacity, who loves to succeed and won’t push himself and South Africa into failure,” Il Sole 24 Ore quoted Manuel, who was an ally of Mbeki, as saying. Commenting on fears that Zuma could change South Africa’s economic policy with or without Manuel in government, the finance minister added:
“It is an open question. It is very important for South Africa not to isolate itself. Our economy won’t become ideological, it will stay rational.”
“All over the world, we are all fighting for rationality. In Brazil, for example, President (Luiz Inacio) Lula (da Silva) continues to make the economy grow and at the same time is tackling poverty. Taking the bull by the horns is exactly what we want to do too in South Africa.”
The ANC’s leftist allies have criticised fiscal and monetary policy under Manuel and central bank Governor Tito Mboweni, saying they have done little to improve the lives of millions of South Africans still grappling with poverty and unemployment 15 years after the end of apartheid.
Manuel is fourth on the ANC’s list of candidates for parliament, a strong indication that he is likely to be included in government, and he reiterated his willingness to serve in the new administration during the newspaper interview.
“You cannot do this job forever. The new president will decide but I would not have put myself forward if I wasn’t ready to continue serving,” said Manuel, who has been South Africa’s finance minister since 1996.