Jacob Zuma has retained his hold on South Africa’s presidency, defying speculation that he’d be forced to make way for his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, who won control of the ruling party last month.
The option of toppling Zuma wasn’t raised at a meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee in East London, according to three members of the panel who spoke on condition of anonymity. Earlier in the week, three of the NEC’s 86 voting members, who also asked not to be identified, said the matter would be discussed.
Ramaphosa, 65, was elected as ANC leader at its national conference on 18 December, warding off a challenge from Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s ex-wife and favoured successor.
A delay in Ramaphosa’s assuming the nation’s presidency could undermine his authority and give him less time to convince voters ahead of 2019 elections that he’s committed to meeting pledges to rebuild the battered economy and clamp down on the alleged graft that’s become synonymous with the Zuma era.
“For Ramaphosa to build on the momentum of his ascendancy to ANC president and boost investor confidence, he will only have a relatively short window to remove Zuma,” said Mike Davies, the founder of political advisory company Kigoda Consulting. “After that the Zuma camp will be able to consolidate, and other factors will start to erode recent optimism that his election means significant change.”
Supporters of Ramaphosa in the NEC plan to propose Zuma’s removal at the 18 January meeting of the panel, according to three people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified. Lawyers for Ramaphosa are studying a 29 December court ruling which ordered parliament to draft rules governing the circumstances under which Zuma could be removed from office, with the view of using that to argue for his ouster, the people said.
The ANC’s former head of intelligence, Zuma, 75, took office in May 2009 just weeks after prosecutors dropped graft charges against him. He’s spent years fighting a bid by opposition parties to have those charges reinstated and fending off allegations that he allowed members of the wealthy Gupta family to influence cabinet appointments and the award of state contracts.
Zuma may have warded off an ouster bid by agreeing to the establishment of a commission headed by a judge nominated by chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to investigate the claims that the Guptas had wielded undue control over the state. The president approved the probe in a private meeting with Ramaphosa on 7 January, according to three ruling party officials with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because the talks weren’t publicly disclosed.
Zuma previously appealed a court ruling ordering him to initiate the inquiry as directed by the nation’s graft ombudsman, despite the ANC adopting a resolution that the investigation should proceed. Zuma argued that only he had the right to appoint judicial commissions and decide on their terms of reference.
Disgruntlement with Zuma’s rule caused support for the ANC to fall to a record low in the 2016 municipal elections and cost it control of Johannesburg and Pretoria. His second and final term is due to end around mid-2019.
Ramaphosa, a lawyer and one of the wealthiest black South Africans, is widely expected to adopt more business-friendly policies and his election as ANC leader helped boost the rand 11% last month, the most among the world’s major currencies.
The rand declined as much as 1.6% on Wednesday, after ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said Zuma’s removal wasn’t up for discussion, before paring the loss to R12.43/$ by 8.13pm in Johannesburg. — Reported by Sam Mkokeli and Mike Cohen, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP