E Cape catapults Ramaphosa into early ANC lead but Mpumulanga, KZN still to decide

Flag map of South Africa

JOHANNESBURG — Cyril Ramaphosa has taken an early lead in the ANC leadership race as Eastern Cape branch members managed to put aside flying chairs on Thursday and overwhelmingly vote in favour of Ramaphosa. This means Ramaphosa now leads branch nominations from the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape. However, if Ramaphosa wants to win in December he’s going to have to perform well in Mpumulanga (which now has the ANC’s second highest number of members) and the party’s largest province KwaZulu-Natal — these two provinces have traditionally been Zuma strongholds. The Eastern Cape, which used to be party’s second biggest province, has slipped to third largest in the ANC universe and only accounts for 12% of an estimated 5000 to 5400 delegates expected to attend the December vote. A lot is going to happen within the next week as branches decide the party’s fate. To understand more about how the voting process works, take a listen to our interview with top political analyst Ralph Mathekga. – Gareth van Zyl

By Mike Cohen

(Bloomberg) — South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa won the backing of a third province in the battle to succeed President Jacob Zuma as leader of the ruling party next month, extending his early lead in the nomination process.

Ramaphosa was endorsed for the African National Congress presidency by 423 branches in the Eastern Cape province, while 61 supported his main rival, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s ex-wife and favored candidate, tallies released Thursday at a party meeting in East London show. The province will account for about 12 percent of the 5,240 voting delegates at the ANC’s national conference starting Dec. 16, the third most of the nine provinces. The rand strengthened against the U.S. dollar.

President Jacob Zuma, Baleke Mbete and Cyril Ramaphosa arrive at parliament to deliver the annual state-of-the-nation address in Cape Town in 2015.  Photographer: Halden Krog/Bloomberg

The deputy president already secured nomination from the Western Cape and Northern Cape, while the Free State backed Dlamini-Zuma. The other five provinces should make their preferences known over the next five days. While the branch nomination tallies are the best available indicator of who’s likely to win, they aren’t conclusive because some bigger branches are entitled to more than one delegate and there’s no guarantee delegates will vote as instructed.

The election has divided the 105-year-old ANC like never before and pitted Ramaphosa and party veterans against Zuma, who’s been mired in allegations that he allowed members of the Gupta family, his son’s business partners, to influence cabinet appointments and the awarding of state contracts.

Rigging, Violence

The process of deciding who will get to attend and vote at the conference has been marred by court challenges, allegations of rigging and outbreaks of violence, casting doubt over whether the party will be able to stage a credible ballot. The party’s next leader will also be its presidential candidate in 2019 elections that will bring an end to Zuma’s second and final term.

Read also: Mmusi isn’t happy about a Cyril-run ANC’s economic conversion – rest of South Africa will be.

Ramaphosa, 65, a lawyer, former labor union leader and one of the wealthiest black South Africans, has pledged to revive the ailing economy, reduce a 28 percent unemployment rate and combat corruption if elected. Dlamini-Zuma, 68, the former chairwoman of the African Union Commission, has echoed Zuma’s call for “radical economic transformation” to place more of the country’s wealth in the hands of the black majority and address one of the world’s highest levels of inequality.

Rand Strengthens

The rand gained as much as 0.8 percent against the U.S. currency after result was announced and was 0.3 percent stronger at 13.6178 per dollar by 5:38 p.m. in Johannesburg.

qnThe contest has also paralyzed several government departments as officials delay decisions until they learn who the new leaders will be. Delaying the conference could leave Zuma as ANC president at a time when his administration has been rocked by repeated scandals, which may unnerve investors who want greater political and policy clarity.

The Eastern Cape’s backing for Ramaphosa was anticipated after his ally Oscar Mabuyane won election as provincial chairman in October. Most party branches in Limpopo and Gauteng are likely to support Ramaphosa, while the majority in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, which send the biggest delegations to the conference, and the North West will probably back Dlamini-Zuma.

Ninety percent of voting delegates will come from the branches, and the rest from the ANC’s leadership structures and leagues representing the youth, women and military veterans.