File photo of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the World Economic Forum (Africa) in Kigali. (GCIS)
The ANC plans to have its leadership conference at year-end and the race has heated up with Ramaphosa and former African Union chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma seen as front-runners.
The stakes are high as whoever succeeds President Jacob Zuma as the head of the ANC will likely lead the country after the 2019 national elections.
Debate in South Africa has been raging about who could come out on top, but Control Risks – which has almost 40 years’ experience in Africa – is predicting a Ramaphosa victory.
Ramaphosa is viewed as being part of the reformist movement in the ANC while Dlamini-Zuma is seen as receiving backing from traditionalists and the so-called premier league, said Seamus Duggan, Control Risks Southern Africa analyst.
“While Control Risks expects a likely Ramaphosa victory, Zuma and other party officials in favour of Dlamini-Zuma will look increasingly to employ rhetoric critical of ‘white monopoly capital’ in a bid to mobilise a broad support base,” said Control Risks in a note handed out to journalists on Tuesday in Sandton, Johannesburg.
Duggan explained to journalists in a briefing on Tuesday that the ANC succession race will come down to a “battle of the branches”.
The analyst went on to say that Ramaphosa has support in the Northern Cape, Western Cape and increasingly the Eastern Cape.
He further said that the ‘premier league’ – which consists of Mpumalanga, North West and the Free State and parts of Limpopo – is not as united as it once was.
Just last week, News24 reported that Free State premier Ace Magashule is facing a revolt amid a plot for a second “regime change” ahead of the ANC’s May provincial congress.
But KwaZulu-Natal, which has the most ANC members in South Africa, is where Ramaphosa is making inroads, said Duggan.
Fin24’s sister publication City Press reported in December last year that “some of KwaZulu-Natal’s ANC big guns are increasingly lining up behind Ramaphosa”.
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This support has particularly come from the involvement of the likes of ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize, City Press reported at the time.
And this opening up of the race is making the province a key area to watch regarding the succession battle.
“Ultimately, the succession battle is going to come down to KwaZulu-Natal,” said Duggan.
“Increasingly, it’s looking like they are going to go with Ramaphosa,” he added.
The battle for the soul of the ANC, though, is still complicated, warned Duggan.
“The reality is that the outcome or the nature of the succession battle is far more messy and the implications for business are not nearly as clear cut,” he said.
“Both Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma face a deeply divided party, and they face deeply entrenched patronage networks.
“So, regardless of the outcome of this election, the new president of the ANC and most likely the incumbent for 2019, is likely going to struggle to impose any kind of vision on the party and then with government,” he added.
Duggan said that already, in the lead up to the ANC’s December elective conference, government policies are stalling amid the party’s leadership battle.
“If you look at the succession dynamics within the ANC, there has been policy uncertainty in areas such as the energy sector. I think more specifically in the last six months, we’ve seen problems emerging in sort of policy clarity around renewables – what is government going to do and what is their plan, and does government have a procurement plan for renewables?” asked Duggan.
“What we see increasingly over the last 18 months, to be more specific since the firing of Nhlanhla Nene [South Africa’s former finance minister] in December 2015, is the coming to the fore of the noise in South African politics. And this is increasingly having a tangible impact, first of all on the policy environment, and second of all on investor confidence in the country,” Duggan added.