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By Marius Bosch
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African President Jacob Zuma on Friday sought to dispel fears that the ruling ANC's labour and communist allies were pushing the country's economic policy to the left.
Recent speculation that labour federation COSATU and the South African Communist Party were pushing policy to the left was a "feverish pre-occupation with a 'left takeover' of the ANC," Zuma said in a weekly letter written as ANC president.
"There is nothing therefore in the argument that the alliance partners determine the policy of the ANC," Zuma said.
The comments, Zuma's first public remarks on suggestions that ANC economic policy is shifting under pressure from the left, helped firm South Africa's rand currency.
Former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel was excluded from the cabinet's economic planning and decision making clusters last week. That, and the resignation of key government policy advisor Joel Netshitenzhe, fuelled investor concern that Zuma's allies may be pressuring him to change policies.
Investors are watching for signs of any departure from previously conservative fiscal policies in Africa's biggest economy, since Zuma became president this year.
Zuma is under pressure from unions and the SACP to introduce anti-poverty measures and loosen policies that saw budget surpluses and small deficits during a decade of strong economic growth.
CABINET DETERMINES POLICY
Zuma said the ANC classified itself as an organisation of the left because of its history as a liberation movement and bias towards the poor and workers.
He said only the South African cabinet determined economic policy and not individual ministers.
"Though there are ministers responsible for coordinating economic policy, they do not determine policy. That is the function of cabinet, drawing on the positions of the ANC which is the key policy formulator, guided by the mandate of the electorate."
The rand gained as much as 1.36 percent against the dollar and traders said Zuma's comments and increased risk appetite for emerging markets assets helped the rand gain.
"There is a big misconception out there that Zuma is not good for the country. But having said that, those sort of comments do not hurt the rand...," one trader said.
Zuma said policy should be debated, but cautioned that certain policy positions should not be associated with individuals.
"As soon as we start associating government policy with one individual, we risk forgetting that these policies are developed collectively and reflect an organisational position," Zuma said. (Additional reporting by Phumza Macanda; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Reuters