Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa beat Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in a gripping battle for control of the ruling party, putting him on track to become the nation’s next leader.
Ramaphosa, 65, won 52% of vote to 48% for Dlamini-Zuma, 68, the tightest margin since Nelson Mandela led the ANC to power in 1994 after the end of apartheid. The outcome is a blow to President Jacob Zuma, who backed his ex-wife to succeed him and now risks being ousted before his second term ends in 2019.
A lawyer, former labour-union leader and one of the wealthiest black South Africans, Ramaphosa has pledged to revive South Africa’s stagnating economy and clamp down on the state corruption that’s marred Zuma’s almost nine-year tenure. He was the favoured candidate of investors, business leaders, labor unionists and the ANC’s communist party allies.
Voters may see the transfer of power to Ramaphosa as a break with the Zuma era, and it should boost the ANC’s chances or retaining an overall majority in the 2019 elections, according to analysts including Daryl Glaser, a political science professor at the University of Witwatersrand.
The rand paired earlier gains and was 2.8% stronger at R12.75/US$ by 8.12pm in Johannesburg. Yields on the government’s $1.25bn of 2026 Eurobonds fell 13 basis points to 4.58%, a three-month low.
Support for the party fell to an all-time low of 54% in last year’s municipal elections, and it relinquished control of economic hub Johannesburg and Pretoria, the capital, to opposition coalitions.
Ramaphosa’s ascendancy to the top ANC post caps a remarkable comeback in a political career that looked to be over when he lost out to Thabo Mbeki in the race to succeed Nelson Mandela as president in 1999.
He amassed a fortune after starting an investment company and securing stakes in a coal-mining venture with Glencore International and the local McDonald’s franchise. Ramaphosa returned to full-time politics in 2012, when he was elected as the ANC’s deputy leader, and Zuma named him vice president in 2014.
In the races for the other top party positions, Mpumalanga provincial premier David Mabuza was elected deputy president. Former secretary-general Gwede Mantashe is the new chairman, Free State premier Ace Magashule was picked as secretary-general, Paul Mashatile as treasurer-general and Jessie Duarte was re-elected as deputy secretary-general.
Ramaphosa, who has a buffalo and antelope ranch in the northern Limpopo province, will have to take tough decisions to restore investor confidence and will confront a number of obstacles that will make it difficult to resuscitate Africa’s most-industrialised economy, according to Ben Payton, head of Africa Research at Verisk Maplecroft, a Bath, England-based risk-advisory company.
“It stretches credibility to imagine that Ramaphosa could win the ANC leadership without striking deals with key power brokers who seek to maintain a patronage-based political system,” Payton said in e-mailed comments. “The struggle to hold the ANC together would dominate Ramaphosa’s tenure as leader and influence all his most important policy decisions.” — Reported by Mike Cohen, Amogelang Mbatha and Sam Mkokeli, with assistance from Paul Vecchiatto, (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP