Business Maverick

FINANCIAL MARKET JITTERS

Rand plunges after poll shows surge in support for Zuma’s MK party

Rand plunges after poll shows surge in support for Zuma’s MK party
Illustrative image | South African bank notes.(Photo: Rawpixel) | uMkhonto Wesizwe member wearing a cloth bearing former president Jacob Zuma's face outside the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Johannesburg.(Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi). (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

A Bloomberg report on a new poll showing a sharp drop in support for the ANC and a surge in support for former president Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto Wesizwe party hammered the rand on Wednesday. This underscores just how sensitive the markets and investors are about the 29 May 2024 elections – and just how ruinous Zuma is to sentiment.

The rand on Wednesday got knocked off the strongest levels it reached yet this year after a Bloomberg report about a new poll showing a surge in support for Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party – largely at the expense of the ANC. 

The rand by late Wednesday afternoon had fallen to 18.79/dollar from 18.44/dollar earlier. The losses were initially triggered by the poll and then gained momentum after data showed that US inflation picked up pace in March, raising the prospect that US interest rates will remain high for longer. 

Read more here: Rising home and gas costs pushed US inflation higher than expected in March 

But the big blow to sentiment was the rising political fortunes of Zuma, whose almost two terms in office were devastating for the economy and the rand. 

The Electoral Court earlier this week cleared the way for Zuma to be a parliamentary candidate for MK, dramatically raising the stakes in the election. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: The unstoppable impunities of being Jacob Zuma — with a lot of help from the ANC 

The poll, conducted by the Social Research Foundation (SRF), showed the ANC with only 37% support, while MK got 13%. 

Read more here: ANC support plunges in South African poll as Zuma party surges 

The SFR three months ago, before it conducted its surveys, was forecasting Zuma’s party would only get 1% or 2% of the vote. 

The findings knocked the rand off its 2024 perch and sent it into a tailspin.

Read more here: ZAR/USD: Rand Plunges as Poll Shows Support for ANC Dropping, Zuma Gains – Bloomberg 

One thing markets and investors intensely dislike is uncertainty, and the news around Zuma and his party this week has wrapped South Africa’s political outlook in a cloud of unpredictability. 

The prospects of MK, with its threats of violence and strident embrace of a radical economic transformation agenda – whatever that might be – becoming part of a governing coalition is clearly unnerving. 

Zuma was widely regarded as the “Looter-in-Chief” during the State Capture and Gupta years, and has since been linked to disastrous events such as the July 2021 riots. 

This all underscores just how sensitive the markets and investors are about the 29 May 2024 elections – and just how ruinous Zuma is to market sentiment. 

This matters because the rand’s exchange rate has huge implications for inflation and the cost of imports, which hits the poor the hardest, and in turn the South African Reserve Bank’s setting of interest rates. 

Zuma is suddenly a factor that investors and markets have to consider when deploying their capital. 

The rand looks set for a turbulent ride over the next couple of months. DM 

Gallery

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