The ANC dilemma: Torn between Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa

From left, President Jacob Zuma, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the closing session of the South African ruling party African National Congress policy conference on July 5. PHOTO | AFP 

The succession race for South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has entered the penultimate stage as the party finds itself in perhaps its biggest dilemma since 1994.

In just under one month, the ANC will elect a new leader who will be the face of the party in the 2019 general election, but the party is split on who to entrust with the responsibility to lead the former liberation movement.

The December 16 elective conference comes at a time the party’s image is at its worst following President Jacob Zuma’s tarnished second term in office.

His final term has been marred by scandals, making the once popular leader an object of scorn and ridicule.

In fact, political analyst Amu Gula-Ndebele believes the 105-year old movement “has never lost more ground than it has under Jacob Zuma”.

Ironically, the same President Zuma is a key player in the succession race, with some saying he knows he will be “safer” with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the helm after 2019.

Prime candidate

But then again, political analyst Thulani Ndlovu warns “the ANC is not guaranteed a general election win with Nkosazana at the helm in 2019”. Therein lies the dilemma of the ANC.

The South African leader’s ex-wife, Dr Dlamini-Zuma, a seasoned politician in her own right, has emerged as a prime candidate to replace him.

Traditionally, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa would have straightforwardly ascended to the party’s top job. Instead, he now faces stiff competition from Dr Dlamini-Zuma, a former home affairs, foreign affairs and health minister.

“South Africa is definitely ready for a female president. Nkosazana (Dlamini-Zuma) has a proven track record, but the question is whether she will win a general election with the Zuma surname in 2019,” says Mr Ndlovu.

Cape Town-based analyst Olebile Sikwane sums up the general feeling of most South Africans when he says “Nkosazana is seen as a Zuma in a doek.”
He adds: “It’s a very dangerous perception.”

Mr Sikwane is of the view that President Zuma is using his influence to push for a victory for his ex-wife to protect his interests, which have been under threat since the opposition pushed for a probe into Nkandla.

Last year, the Constitutional Court found that he failed to take any steps to stop the state-sponsored non-security related upgrades of his Nkandla home.

“Nkosazana is largely seen as a gatekeeper of Nkandla interests,” he says.

While President Zuma may sway the ANC to vote Dr Dlamini-Zuma into the party’s hot seat, Mr Sikwane says he may not be able to do the same come 2019 election.

Tripartite Alliance support

Add to that, Mr Ramaphosa has the backing of Tripartite Alliance partners — the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP).
The Tripartite Alliance was forged in 1990 after the movements opposed to white minority rule by the apartheid government. The ANC holds a majority in parliament, while the two partners have not contested any democratic election in South Africa.

Cosatu and SACP have made it clear they are settling for nothing short of a Ramaphosa victory on December 16.

“If Ramaphosa loses, we may witness the collapse of the alliance because both Cosatu and SACP have made it clear they don’t want Nkosazana,” says Mr Ndlovu.

Mr Ramaphosa, generally perceived as solid in terms of charisma and track record in the ANC, has seemingly amassed the support of five out of nine provinces while his challenger has three so far, according to figures coming out from the ongoing branch nominations.

The Youth League, Women’s League and the Veterans’ League are all rallying behind Dr Dlamini-Zuma.

The ANC has around 4,000 branches throughout the country. An audit was conducted a few months ago to determine the number of members in “good standing.”

From the outcome of the audit, the total number of delegates to the conference was divided proportionally according to the number of members in each province.

KwaZulu-Natal is the ANC’s biggest province and will be sending 870 delegates out of a total of 4,723 to the conference.

Mpumalanga, which is seen as the kingmaker in the conference, will be sending 736 delegates.

A certain allocation has also been made to the Women’s League, Youth League and Veterans. 
Apart from electing the party’s president, conference delegates will also vote for the top six positions as well as for the additional 80 elected national executive committee members.
“Although voting takes place on an individual basis and is secret, the practice has been in recent years for provinces to support a certain faction. This means that provinces agree beforehand which group of candidates they want to support for the different positions and then expect their delegates to vote for this group of candidates,” explains Mr Ndlovu.

According to Mr Sikwane, Mr Ramaphosa also has an edge because he is the unions’ favourite.

“He is also business’s last hope to resuscitate the ailing economy of South Africa. He is also seen as a cleaner candidate,” adds Mr Sikwane.

“Winning Team”

Interestingly, Mr Ramaphosa’s “Winning Team” has individuals who are generally well-regarded by the public.

“He has a very solid team. Naledi Pandor, Ramaphosa’s preferred deputy, is respected across the ANC as an intellect, a performing minister and a voice of reason.

“Senzo Mchunu, picked as secretary general, is being used to appease KwaZulu Natal while Paul Mashatile is the Gauteng strongman.

“Gwede Mantashe, seconded as national chair, is without doubt a solid candidate. He’s been with the ANC during a tumultuous time and proven himself to be a leader who can stand his ground,” explains Mr Sikwane.

He points out that the people in Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s corner are generally viewed as President Zuma’s cronies.

Ndlovu adds: “The media has painted anyone seen to be close to President Zuma as shady. That may work against the ANC in 2019 if they go with Nkosazana.”

Mr Gula-Ndebele says President Zuma’s passing the baton to Dr Dlamini-Zuma could also prove detrimental to the party.

“If I were the Democratic Alliance, I would be praying that Nkosazana wins because South Africans won’t want anything that appears to be a Zuma dynasty when they vote in 2019,” he says.

An associate politics professor at the University of Johannesburg, Mcebisi Ndletyana, has observed Dr Dlamini’s reinvention as a populist since her return from her tenure as African Union chair.

He is convinced that the conversion robs her candidature of authenticity.

“It’s not credible. What she presents herself to be and says is not what we’ve always known about her. The company she keeps worsens this credibility problem. Her campaign manager and chief campaigner, Zuma and Bathabile Dlamini, don’t rate high on public trust,” he says.

He adds that the ANC MP, Dr Dlamini-Zuma, is at odds with the technocratic leader South Africa has always known.

“As a presidential candidate, she’s a populist who pushes policies that have emotive appeal. There’s no way that the government can expropriate private property without compensation and still avoid economic ruin. Zimbabwe is evidence of that. Dlamini-Zuma knows this too, yet supports such ruinous policies.”

But Mr Gula-Ndebele is of the view that the populist rhetoric is working for her.

"Black empowerment"

“Nkosazana is hitting the populist tone and she has an edge. The black empowerment thing is growing — not only the ANC — the EFF talks about it too,” he says.

On the other hand, Mr Ramaphosa has largely spoken about dealing with state capture and corruption, which, to Mr Gula-Ndebele, “sounds like a DA tone and may not appeal to the ordinary ANC member.
“The Radical Economic Transformation which Nkosazana has been singing means including blacks in trade and industry opportunities and has more mass appeal,” he adds.

Then again, Mr Sikwane says the diversity of leadership Mr Ramaphosa promises to bring is exactly what South Africa needs.

The onus is now on the ANC conference electorate — do they sacrifice Mr Ramaphosa at the expense of their status as the ruling party post-2019?

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