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How the world sees SA: ANC could lose power if Zuma family wins ‘cruel’ leadership contest

qnEDINBURGH — Many South Africans are pinning their hopes on deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa coming to the country’s rescue after securing leadership of the ANC next week. But it’s not going to be an easy contest. In fact, international onlookers have been told that Ramaphosa may not have what it takes to beat Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in what looks likely to be a two-horse – and very ‘cruel’ – race. President Jacob Zuma could also pull a few tricks out of his sleeve to stall the decision-making. Whatever happens, though, the next ANC leader has a major challenge on his or her hands. A Dlamini-Zuma victory could easily speed up the ANC’s downfall. Ramaphosa will have the considerable task of reversing the country’s economic and moral decline. – Jackie Cameron

By Thulasizwe Sithole*

With business confidence at its lowest since 1994 as a result of the economic rot that has set in, South Africa’s ruling ANC is at a turning point when it chooses a new leader next week.

This is according to the Financial Times, which outlines the “extraordinary slide in the ANC’s moral standing”.

The London-headquartered FT goes as far as to caution that the ANC could easily lose power in the 2019 elections if it instals President Jacob Zuma’s ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as his successor.

It warns, too, that Zuma could find a way to scupper the conference on procedural grounds and kick the contest into next year – which would also be very negative for business confidence.

President Jacob Zuma and his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Next week’s ANC convention is a watershed moment for South Africa, though it will still be a challenge to right South Africa even if the Zumas are sidelined. “The winner will take over a party in crisis,” says the FT.

Among the ANC sins since 1994:

  • Presiding over economic decline that has resulted in more than one in four South Africans being unemployed and a staggering 17m of the country’s 52m people receiving some kind of government benefit;
  • Business confidence that has sunk deeper than any time since the 1980s when international sanctions were imposed on the country.

The FT quotes analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana, professor of political science at Johannesburg University, saying that this conference “is really about determining the depth of the ANC decline”.

“The decline will continue even after they have a new leader. It’s just a question of extant,” he says.

The FT says that, “barring a political earthquake”, the next president will be Cyril Ramaphosa or Nkosazana-Zuma.

If the latter wins, “that will mark the point of no return for the ANC,” Lawson Naidoo has told the FT.

It’s not clear who is likely to win, though, with various soundings indicating that Ramaphosa could win by a whisker or a gathering landslide.

“ANC voting procedures are opaque and vulnerable to manipulation,” analysts tell the FT.

Ramaphosa is favoured by the business community, as he has “set out his stall against corruption” and pledged to recover “stolen billions belonging to our people”.

If Ramaphosa wins the leadership contest, Julius Malema might be tempted back to the party bringing voters with him, theorises the FT.

However, as Ralph Mathekga, an independent analyst, tells the FT: It is not clear whether Ramaphosa has what it takes to beat Dlamini-Zuma. “To win this, you have to be cruel, and there’s no cruelty in Cyril’s character. He’s like a churchman.”

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