Mineworkers back Ramaphosa for president – but only after Zuma serves full term

South Africa’s mineworkers have pledged support for Cyril Ramaphosa as South Africa’s next president, but not at the expense of incumbent Jacob Zuma. Although Zuma’s right-hand man in the mines ministry, Mosebenzi Zwane, has disappointed mineworkers by showing no interest in them, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) would not like to see Zuma displaced. Although NUM numbers are in decline, Ramaphosa will welcome mineworkers’ support as he starts developing his campaign to secure the most powerful office in South Africa. Ramaphosa has a lot of work to do to strengthen his position. The candidate favoured among business players as a successor to Nelson Mandela, Ramaphosa has lacked the deep support of ANC members at grassroots level and within the power structures of the party to rise to the top. He concentrated on business after losing out to Thabo Mbeki in 1999. Later returning to play a larger role in politics, the wealthy businessman and former unionist announced in 2014 that he would be divesting from his business interests to free himself up from potential conflicts of interest as the country’s deputy president. Ramaphosa has been building his profile, raising his head above the parapet on a range of matters – from fun condoms for the nation to backing the ambitions of student #FeesMustFall campaigners. However, commentators believe he will have to do more to take a clear stand on bigger political challenges, like state capture and the financial mess at ailing national airline SAA, to improve his chances of becoming president. In a blow to Ramaphosa, the Congress of South African Trade Unions recently withdrew support for him while the ANC Youth League is reportedly expected to put their collective weight behind Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, President Zuma’s ex-wife. Neither Ramaphosa nor Dlamini-Zuma have officially announced their intentions to put themselves forward for president. – Jackie Cameron

By Tshepiso Mokhema

Bloomberg – South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers said it will back Cyril Ramaphosa to be president of the country’s ruling African National Congress after Jacob Zuma.

“This is not only based on the tradition of the ANC, but also on the suitability of the of the candidate,” NUM General Secretary David Sipunzi told reporters in Johannesburg Monday. “Zuma must serve his term.” Ramaphosa, 63, co-founded the NUM in the 1980s.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (C) alongside his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa (L). REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/Files
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma (C) alongside his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa (L). REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/Files

Zuma, 74, is scheduled to depart as the ANC’s leader in 2017 and as the nation’s president in 2019. The contest to replace Zuma is intensifying as calls mount from ANC veterans, civil-rights groups and church officials for him to quit or be fired after he was implicated in a series of scandals. The nation’s next leader will probably come from the party since it’s won every parliamentary vote since the end of apartheid 22 years ago by more than 60 percent.

The nation’s top court in March found that Zuma violated the constitution by failing to repay taxpayer funds spent on his private home. Critics accuse him of allowing the Gupta family, who are his friends and in business with his son, to use their connections for financial gain. Both Zuma and the Guptas deny wrongdoing.

Ramaphosa, a lawyer, helped to negotiate a peaceful end to apartheid and draft South Africa’s first democratic constitution. He lost out to Thabo Mbeki in the contest to succeed Nelson Mandela as president in 1999 and went into business, amassing a fortune before returning to full-time politics in 2012 when he became ANC deputy president.

Recruitment Drive

The NUM has been displaced by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union as the biggest representative of employees in the platinum industry. South Africa is the world’s largest producer of the metal.

The NUM is working to recruit members after numbers declined to 192,0000 from 206,000 in July last year, Sipunzi said.

The union’s relationship with Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane is “non-existent,” Sipunzi said. “We are concerned that he does not deem it important to form a relationship with us when we are part of the major stakeholders; instead he is busy with other things.”

This month, the presidency repudiated Zwane when he caused a storm of protest from business leaders by saying the cabinet recommended a judicial inquiry into banking oversight bodies after lenders cut ties to the Gupta family.

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