Joy of Victory Belies South Africa’s Crisis

Joy of Victory Belies South Africa’s CrisisJoy of Victory Belies South Africa’s Crisis

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For a moment, South Africans were united in jubilation.

Their national rugby team — the one-time symbol of white-minority rule that’s now led by a black captain — demolished England on Saturday to win the World Cup. It evoked memories of 1995 when Nelson Mandela urged the nation to get behind the Springboks as they marched to the title, recounted in the film “Invictus.”

For President Cyril Ramaphosa, the celebration will be fleeting.

In Africa’s most industrialized economy, unemployment is at about 30% and dysfunctional state companies such as power utility Eskom are sucking public cash at an alarming rate, threatening to lock the nation in a debt trap.

And, as Antony Sguazzin and Rene Vollgraaff report, Ramaphosa isn’t showing the backbone of a Mandela to deal with labor unions opposed to the steps needed to fix the economy and clean up the mess left by the scandal-tainted rule of Jacob Zuma.

South Africa’s financial situation is deteriorating rapidly, with two of three major ratings companies setting its debt as junk. If the third, Moody’s, follows suit, that could trigger outflows of as much as $15 billion.

Ramaphosa faces a challenge perhaps bigger than when Mandela led the country out of the grips of apartheid — especially now the glory of liberation and international goodwill have long since faded.

Global Headlines

Written answers | The lawyer for the whistle-blower at the center of a House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump said he’s offering Republicans the chance to question his client directly — but only in writing. The answers would be given under oath, but the person’s identity would remain secret. Trump has demanded the whistle-blower’s unmasking.

Trump continues a campaign swing through the South this week — starting with a rally today in Kentucky — where he’ll try to fire up his core supporters by taking on Democrats’ impeachment effort. Click here for Bloomberg’s exclusive interview with Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the House Democrats’ probe.

One-way bet | Saudis have been awaiting this day with great anticipation — the sales of shares in their national oil giant, Aramco. While the prospect of the world’s largest initial public offering is a chance for investors to buy into the cash cow that has nourished Saudi Arabia for decades, no one knows when the payoff may come. For Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, it underpins his plans to diversify the kingdom’s economy away from fossil fuels.

Trade timeline | Wilbur Ross met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang today at a regional summit in Bangkok, hours after the Commerce Secretary told a morning business forum that the U.S. was “very far along” with “Phase One” of a trade deal with China. Trump said yesterday that any trade agreement would be signed somewhere in the U.S. In an interview with Bloomberg, Ross expressed optimism about finalizing an initial agreement this month.

Subscribe to Bloomberg’s Terms of Trade newsletter to receive all the big developments in your inbox each weekday.

Eastern entente | South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese leader Shinzo Abe agreed to ease tensions as they met for the first time in over a year. Their 11-minute huddle came amid a trade-and-security dispute that’s seen boycotts of Japanese imports and the decision to scrap an intelligence-sharing pact. Moon proposed high-level talks if needed, while his counterpart said every effort should be made to resolve the feud.

Most Southeast Asian leaders skipped a summit with U.S. representatives after Trump decided to avoid the annual Asean meetings for a second straight year.

That sinking feeling | Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor as head of Germany’s governing CDU party slumped in a public opinion survey, opening the door to a renewed leadership challenge. It’s the latest bad news for Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who has stumbled as party head and is facing questions about her direction after a historic state election defeat in October. She polled well behind Friedrich Merz, the man she beat to become CDU leader, who has support among the party’s business wing and social conservatives.

What to Watch This Week

Hong Kong protesters blocked roads, vandalized public facilities and clashed with police at malls full of shoppers this weekend, leaving 70 people injured and more than 200 arrested as the city’s turmoil shows no signs of ending. Trump has said the U.S. military dog that helped in the operation to kill Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi will visit the White House. U.S. lawmakers are considering whether to push a deadline to fund the government into early February to avoid a budget fight amid the impeachment probe. Ethiopia’s and Egypt’s foreign ministries have accepted U.S. invitations for talks in Washington on Wednesday as part of efforts to quell a dispute over a giant dam being built on the Nile. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will meet this week in California with civil rights activist Al Sharpton amid concerns about the company’s policy of letting politicians lie on its platform. The U.S. states of Kentucky and Mississippi voters cast ballots for new state governors tomorrow and Virginia holds state legislative elections, in what will be key tests for Democrats and Republicans ahead of the 2020 election.

Thanks to all who responded to our pop quiz Friday and congratulations to reader Sivadasan Krishnan, who was the first to name Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the answer to the question: Trump’s White House once explored whether the U.S. could cut off taxpayer funding for a network of charter schools affiliated with a political opponent of which world leader? Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at finally … She’s famous for her excesses, from reports of diamonds stuffed in diapers to her massive shoe collection. Now, a Showtime documentary premiering this week suggests Imelda Marcos — the 90-year-old widow of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos — is intent on whitewashing the past to help provide a path to power for her only son.


–With assistance from Kathleen Hunter and Karen Leigh.

To contact the author of this story: Karl Maier in Rome at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at

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