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South Africa will take urgent steps to avoid a further downgrade

CAPE TOWN South Africa(Xinhua) -- The South African government will do what it can to avoid a further downgrade, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Thursday.

Urgent steps must be taken to prevent international rating agency Moody’s from downgrading South Africa’s credit rating, Gigaba said in Cape Town after a meeting with local investors.

Gigaba assured investors of policy certainty in different policy programs, including the mining and telecommunications sectors.

He pledged that the government would take immediate action to improve the financial performance and governance of state-owned companies.

Gigaba said he is planning to meet with the Moody’s to ensure the agency that South Africa is willing to continue on the course of fiscal discipline and reducing the country’s debt.

"We will do all we can to avoid another downgrade and one of the ways to do that is to engage with Moody’s directly," he said.

Moody’s has put South Africa on review for a possible downgrade after Standard & Poor’s and Fitch downgraded the country’s rating to junk status respectively on April 3 and April 7.

The downgrades followed a drastic cabinet reshuffle by President Jacob Zuma on March 31. The reshuffle saw the sacking of well-respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, a move that rattled the nerves of investors. Gigaba, former minister of home affairs with less financial experiences, replaced Gordhan.

A third downgrade by Moody’s is expected to raise the possibility for a recession.

"For us, in order to fend off a downgrade by Moody’s, there are urgent steps that we need to undertake in the form of providing clarity in the different policy programs," Gigaba said on Thursday.


South African parliament postpones Zuma no-confidence vote

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- South African Parliament Speaker Baleka Mbete has decided to postpone debate and vote on the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma, Parliament said Wednesday.

The decision followed a request by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), under whose leader the motion was tabled, for postponing the motion pending conclusion of the Constitutional Court application by the United Democratic Movement (UDM), Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said.

The motion was originally scheduled for April 18, as requested by DA leader Mmusi Maimane.

But the UDM approached the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) on Monday, asking for an order to have voting on the motion of no confidence conducted through a secret ballot.

The ConCourt on Tuesday granted the UDM access to argue its application for a secret ballot when a motion of no confidence in Zuma is conducted.

Under the court ruling, other involving parties can file opposing papers until April 21.

Following the court order, several opposition parties have called for the postponement of the debate.

The UDM said a new date should be set for April 25 so as to allow the respondents time to file their papers.

While agreeing to the postponement, Mbete did not say when the debate would be conducted, according to Mothapo.

The postponement of the motion will be referred to the National Assembly Programme Committee for its consideration after the constituency period, Mothapo said.

"The Programme Committee will be requested to reflect on the implications of the postponement of the motion of no confidence on the programme of the House, especially in light of Rule 90 (rule of anticipation)," the spokesperson said.

In terms of Rule 90, postponed motions remain on the programming system of the Assembly, thereby blocking any MP from tabling a similar motion until the one that has been tabled is debated and voted on.

The DA submitted the motion in the hope of toppling Zuma, who has been criticized for reshuffling the cabinet on March 31, with the sacking of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and nine other ministers.

The move has prompted international rating agencies Standard & Poor’s and Fitch to downgrade SA’s credit rating to junk status.

Opposition parties believe that a secret ballot would allow MPs of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to vote in favor of the motion.

The ANC has rejected calls by opposition parties for a secret ballot.

The party has said its MPs must vote according to the party line.

Some ANC MPs reportedly voiced fear that they would be disciplined or removed if they vote in support of the motion.

For a vote of no confidence motion to be successful, it requires 201 of the 400 National Assembly MPs to vote in favor.

If the motion is successful, then the president, his deputy, cabinet ministers and all their deputies must resign as provided for in section 102 of the Constitution.

In 2016, Zuma survived two no confidence motions in Parliament that is dominated by ANC MPs.

Bus strike continues, stranding thousands of commuters in South Africa

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- A nationwide bus strike continued on Thursday, frustrating thousands of commuters who are stranded on the eve of the Easter holiday.

Thousands of bus drivers have gone on strike to protest against the dehumanizing conditions faced by employees in the bus passenger sector.

The services of Golden Arrow and MyCiti in Cape Town, Rea Vaya in Johannesburg, Gautrain buses and Putco in Gauteng Province, as well as some long-distance bus services have all been suspended because of the strike action.

In Cape Town alone, 220,000 Golden Arrow passengers were affected, according to the company.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), which organized the strike, vowed on Thursday to continue the strike indefinitely until its demand for a 12-percent wage increases is met.

The union has rejected the latest wage offer of 7.5 percent increase by employers in the bus passenger sector.

Talks with employers broken down on Wednesday, leaving the striking workers with no choice but to continue their strike action, NUMSA acting national spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi said.

"We were hoping that the employer would engage meaningfully with our demands and put a fair offer on the table, but that wasn’t the case," he said.

It is clear that the employers do not care about resolving the strike, neither do they care about the welfare of the workers, or the public at large, Hlubi said.

"We call on all workers to unite behind this just cause for equality and dignity. We will not return to work until the employer starts to treat our members like human beings, instead of slave labor," said Hlubi.

Easter is one of the most important holidays in South Africa. From Friday to Monday, thousands of pilgrims and holiday makers will be travelling to attend church service and travelling to different holiday destinations.

South Africa government says no to unregulated trade in rhino horns

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- A Constitutional Court order setting aside the moratorium on domestic trade in rhino horns does not mean unregulated trade in rhino horns, Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa said on Thursday.

"Whilst we are studying the implications of the order handed down by the Constitutional Court, it should be noted that the court’s decision should not be construed to mean that the domestic trade in rhino horn may take place in an unregulated fashion," Molewa said.

She was speaking after the Constitutional Court on Wednesday dismissed an application by Molewa to overturn a 2015 order by the High Court in Pretoria to set aside a moratorium on domestic trade in rhino horns with immediate and retrospective effect.

Since the moratorium came into effect, the Department of Environmental Affairs has strengthened its laws, regulations and systems to ensure no regulatory loopholes exist with regards to the possession of rhino horns as well as a possible future domestic trade in rhino horns.

The Constitutional Court judgment does not mean that persons are allowed to trade (including selling, donating, or in any way acquiring or disposing of rhino horns) without a permit issued by the relevant provincial conservation department, Molewa said.

In the absence of the moratorium, it must be emphasized that all domestic trade in rhino horns will be subjected to the issuance of the relevant permits, Molewa said.

"It must be furthermore emphasized that this matter does not relate to the international trade in rhino horn for commercial purposes. Commercial international trade in rhino horn is still prohibited in terms of the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)," said Molewa.

In South Africa, home to about 90 percent of the world’s rhino population, 1,175 rhinos were poached in 2015.

The government introduced the moratorium on rhino horn trade to curb rhino poaching.

But private ranchers say that the moratorium has failed to stop the scourge, and therefore should be lifted.


South African Opposition argue for a secret ballot in Parliament

President Zuma warns against South Africa Racism resurgence

South Africa ruling ANC concern at Downgrade of Credit Rating

South Africa remains committed to Fiscal consolidation: Minister

Thousands shout in street demand President Zuma resignation

South Africans prepare for march against President Jacob Zuma

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