Ramaphosa, Dlamini-Zuma in tight race to
lead South Africa's ruling ANC
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[December 16, 2017]
By Alexander Winning and James Macharia
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The African
National Congress (ANC), South Africa's only ruler since the end of
apartheid, votes this weekend in a race too close to call to replace
Jacob Zuma as party leader with the winner also likely to become the
The election is perhaps the most pivotal moment for the ANC in its 23
years of power. Scandal and corruption allegations have tainted Zuma's
presidency and the party that launched black majority rule under Nobel
Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela is now deeply divided, its image
tarnished at home and abroad.
The ANC will announce Zuma's successor on Sunday, concluding a bruising
leadership battle that threatens to splinter the 105-year-old liberation
The race has been dominated by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, 65,
generally favoured by financial markets, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, 68,
an ex-cabinet minister, chairwoman of the African Union Commission and
Zuma, whose term as head of state expires in 2019, is backing
Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him.
South Africa's rand firmed more than 2 percent after courts ruled senior
officials in two provinces seen as supporting Dlamini-Zuma had been
illegally elected and could not attend the conference.
Ramaphosa won a majority of the nominations to become leader of the
party, but delegates at the Dec. 16-20 conference in Johannesburg are
not bound to vote for the candidate their ANC branch nominated, meaning
it is unclear if he will actually win.
The ANC's National Executive Committee, a decision-making group of
senior keaders, met before the conference began and decided that barred
delegates could not vote at the conference.
"We don't want to contaminate the conference... They will not vote on
any matter," ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe told reporters.
ANC Youth League leader Collen Maine, who backs Dlamini-Zuma, said 122
delegates would be prevented from voting at the conference following the
ruling by the courts. "That is not significant," Maine told Reuters.
At the meeting venue, delegates in T-shirts in the gold and green colors
of the ANC sang party songs and danced, with many waving party flags
while women rent the air with ululations.
To his supporters, Ramaphosa's business success makes him well-suited to
the task of turning around an economy grappling with 28 percent
unemployment and credit rating downgrades.
"Early signs of a win for Cyril Ramaphosa, the more investor-friendly
option, have provided support for the rand," John Ashbourne, Africa
economist at Capital Economics, said.
"But while Mr. Ramaphosa is popular among party members, the result will
be decided by political insiders, who may opt for his leftist opponent,
Ramaphosa has recently stepped up criticism of Zuma's scandal-plagued
government, while Dlamini-Zuma has said her priority is to improve
prospects for the black majority.
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South Africa's Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa gestures at an
election rally of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Port
Elizabeth, South Africa April 16, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File
He is expected to be backed by ANC veterans, labor unions and civil
society organizations. In contrast, Dlamini-Zuma is seen as a fierce
campaigner against racial inequality whose hostility to big business
has rattled investors in South Africa.
"She has not made corruption the only pillar of her campaign,
because the most critical issue in South Africa is this huge
inequality," said Carl Niehaus, a key member of Dlamini-Zuma's
Growth in Africa's most industrialized economy has been lackluster
for the last six years, and the jobless rate is near record levels.
Analysts say the ANC leadership battle has made it hard to reform
the economy and improve social services.
"The outcome is difficult to predict. This creates considerable
uncertainty that is reflected in significantly increased volatility
for the rand," Elisabeth Andreae, analyst at Commerzbank, said in a
In a move likely to please the ANC rank and file, Zuma announced
hours before the conference kicked off that South Africa would raise
subsidies to universities to 1 percent of GDP over the next five
years from nearly 0.7 percent at present.
Speaking at a breakfast of businessmen and politicians at the venue
of the ANC conference, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said South
Africa's government would take "necessary tough decisions" to
stabilize public debt and grow the economy.
On Friday evening, Zuma cracked jokes at an ANC dinner and said that
leading the party had "been a worthwhile experience", while adding
he looked forward to stepping down. He is expected to make a speech
to launch the conference.
The 75-year-old has denied numerous corruption accusations since
taking office in 2009 and has survived several no-confidence votes
Zuma has faced allegations of undue influence in making cabinet
appointments and awarding state tenders to his friends, the Gupta
family. Zuma and the Guptas have denied any wrongdoing.
"People can't wait to see his back," political analyst Prince
Mashele said in a newspaper opinion piece.
(Additional reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Writing by James
Macharia; editing by Mark Heinrich)
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