BREAKING VIEWS: South Africa’s ANC elects new leader – will Ramaphosa be ‘another lame duck?’
18 Dec 2017

Businessman and anti-apartheid stalwart Cyril Ramaphosa has been elected as the new leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, positioning him in a strong place to become the country’s next president in the 2019 elections.

Ramaphosa, who is also the country’s Deputy President, narrowly defeated Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, by 2,440 votes to 2,261, with several key positions going to politicians who are regarded as unlikely to back him.

Dlamini-Zuma is the former wife of South African President Jacob Zuma, who is facing multiple charges of corruption and has been linked to the Gupta family, who are mired in a wide-range money laundering and state capture scandal.

Tackling graft in South Africa has become a hot topic, marked by huge streets protests and calls for President Zuma to go.

Will a new broom at the top clean up the plague of corruption in Africa’s ‘Rainbow Nation’?

One commentator in South Africa told KYC360 that Ramaphosa’s ‘disappointing’ performance in the leadership contest indicates he will be a ‘lame duck’ in the fight against corruption as he is unlikely to get the necessary support to drive through key reforms or prosecute Zuma regarding corruption.

Here’s what other experts told KYC360:

Anne Frühauf, South Africa specialist commentator and Senior Vice President at Teneo:

While the Ramaphosa camp won the presidential, chair, and treasurer positions, President Zuma’s allies captured the remaining half of the posts.

With Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza as his deputy and Free State Premier Ace Magashule as secretary-general (and Jessie Duarte remaining as deputy secretary-general), Zuma’s ‘captured comrades’ control key positions in the ANC and much of the day-to-day running of Luthuli House, the ANC’s HQ.

The three leaders are to a large extent representative of the ANC’s ‘patronage front’ and implicated in accusations of ‘state capture’ swirling around the Zuma administration.

This causes immediate and gargantuan challenges for Ramaphosa:

Problem no. 1 – Zuma’s tenure

The intention of Ramaphosa’s team had been to force Zuma’s exit by the time of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in early February.

With a cleaner top six slate and majority control of the National Executive Committee (NEC, to be elected by 19 December), Ramaphosa would have been in a strong position to remove the scandal-dogged president from power via a recall decided by the NEC or, failing that, impeachment proceedings in parliament. Not now.

His new colleagues in the top six can try to block him and mobilize against him on the NEC, making it quite uncertain when Zuma can be forced out of office (unless the president’s legal problems finally come to a head).

Problem no. 2 – Anti-corruption campaign

The potential of Zuma clinging to office immediately creates another problem. Ramaphosa ran his campaign on an anti-corruption platform, pledging renewal and good governance – a break from Zuma’s administration.

The deputy nominated on Ramaphosa’s side, Lindiwe Sisulu – who has a reputation for integrity and tough bargaining – would have been a good partner to promote Ramaphosa’s campaign of change. Instead, some of the potential targets of his anti-corruption campaign serve right alongside him in the ANC’s top leadership.

Johannesburg-based analyst Daniel Silke said:

Most South Africans will feel relieved that Ramaphosa was victorious in the leadership contest. It was certainly indicated during his campaign about rooting out graft.

He certainly has been a stronger candidate regarding the issue. The problem is that he may not be able to get the necessary support to implement that drive.

He did not win the leadership contest with an overwhelming majority – it was a mere 51%. In addition, among the top six in the ANC leadership contest elected, some are loyal to Nkosazna Dhlamini-Zuma.

Generally, even if he has strong intentions, his chances of clearing the deck of corruption are murky.

He will likely struggle to push through.

It will be useful to see how he performs in the election of national executive committee – if more of his supporters are elected, it will be helpful for him to push through his policies.

But his weak stance regarding the top six elected shows it will be a challenge for him. Generally, neither Dhlamini-Zuma or Ramaphosa were keen to prosecute Zuma before the leadership contest.

For Ramaphosa this was possibly because there is a fear that any attempts to do so could be met with resistance from within the party.

It may also turn out to be a divisive move and he may not get the full support. So Ramaphosa and others would raher rather see a clean exit for Zuma when he steps down.

But this is not to say the fight against corruption is lost – we still have a planned judicial inquiry into state capture and progress is being made in the courts regarding Zuma’s case where he is facing hundreds of charges of corruption.

PHOTO: GovernmentZA

– By Irene Madongo

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