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South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan declined on Thursday to say whether he was confident of the political support of the ruling ANC, less than a week before he must answer fraud charges in court. Gordhan said he had tried not to let the case distract him while preparing a mid-term budget presented to parliament on Wednesday. Asked during a post-budget breakfast meeting whether he was still confident he had political backing, Gordhan said: "I'm not trying to duck, but I'm not going to answer it." Gordhan, who on Wednesday slashed growth forecasts for the next three years and predicted wider budget deficits than previously expected, said he was not preoccupied with whether he had done enough to stave off credit rating downgrades.
Samsung heir apparent Lee Jae-Yong took a major step towards control of the family-run conglomerate on Thursday, joining the board as the company reported a 30 percent profit dive following a highly damaging recall crisis. The move is being seen as a coronation of sorts of the 48-year-old Lee, who is already vice chairman of Samsung Electronics and has seen his influence grow since his father, Samsung patriarch Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack and was hospitalised in 2014. Board chairman Kwon Oh-Hyun said Lee's elevation would give him a greater say in decision-making at the highest level and help foster "long-term, sustainable value" for Samsung shareholders.