The Sunday Times reported on its front page that the five countries — the US, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland who account for 75 percent of all foreign investment in South Africa — had written a note to President Cyril Ramaphosa urging him to ensure full respect for the rule of law.
No investor would come to South Africa without such guarantees, the newspaper cited the note as saying.
Ramaphosa, who replaced Jacob Zuma a year ago promising an anti-corruption crusade, has called on foreign firms to have faith in the country and help kick-start the economy after years of “state pillage.”
South Africa’s foreign ministry reacted sharply to the reported note, recording its “disappointment” that it was sent.
“This is a departure from established diplomatic practice,” it said in a statement.
“All matters that have been raised by investors are being addressed,” it added.
Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu met the five ambassadors on Monday when they said they had not in fact sent such a note to the president and that the document dated from June last year.
“This discussion paper was intended to support South Africa’s investment drive and to underpin our constructive dialogue with the South African government,” they said in a statement.
For its part the ruling ANC party was quick to denounce the reported note, saying: “South Africa is a sovereign state and has always respected the laws of these imperialist countries.
“We do not appreciate a threatening and bullying tone,” it said, charging “this unwarranted act by these five countries is viewed dimly, as an act to influence the outcome of the upcoming elections.”
A general election is due in May with the ANC, despite the damage to its reputation from the Zuma-era corruption scandals, the favourite.