CONTENT PREVIEW
Country Risk

Surge in support for deputy president increases prolonged government instability risk after South African ruling party’s elective conference

24 November 2017

Key Points

  • Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa appears to have a clear lead over President Zuma’s former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in nominations to be the next ANC president.
  • There is now an increased risk of rigging and intimidation at a disrupted and even violent conference as Zuma desperately tries to prevent a Ramaphosa victory.
  • A disputed or inconclusive outcome will prolong government instability, and increase economic damage and the likelihood of ratings downgrades while Zuma is able to cling on to power.

Event

An acrimonious elective conference to choose the next leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party now looks likely to go ahead, but the odds are widening for President Jacob Zuma’s preferred successor.

An ANC supporter shows his backing for South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at a union demonstration in Johannesburg on 27 September. (Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)An ANC supporter shows his backing for South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at a union demonstration in Johannesburg on 27 September. (Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) announced on 21 November that its 54th National Conference will be held from 16–20 December in Johannesburg, at which it will choose a successor to controversial national President Jacob Zuma as ANC president. The contest appears a straight fight between Zuma’s former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has become increasingly estranged from the head of state. The deadline for party branches to make their nominations has been extended from 19 November to 25 November, but the ANC has confirmed that the threshold of 70% of branches has been reached, allaying fears that the conference may have to be postponed. Party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe went further on 22 November, stating that 90% of branches had already concluded meetings and nominated candidates.

A total of 5,240 delegates have been confirmed, but there are dozens of outstanding court cases and disputes relating to leadership and membership in provinces and their constituent branches, as well as many branches which could not agree on a nomination. However, it is becoming clear from all available sources that Ramaphosa appears to hold a strong advantage in nominations, with a poll conducted by the respected South Africa Institute of Race Relations claiming on 22 November that he was backed by 65% of branches that had already made decisions.

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