Members of South Africa’s scandal-hit African National Congress (ANC) party gathered Saturday in Johannesburg to elect a new leader to succeed President Jacob Zuma. FRANCE 24 takes a look at the two main candidates vying for the top spot.
While there are seven candidates for the party leadership, only two are seen as having a real chance of winning: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, 65, who is favoured by the business community, and former cabinet minister Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma, 68, a onetime chairwoman of the African Union Commission and President Jacob Zuma’s ex-wife. Zuma, whose term expires in 2019, has endorsed Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him.
Zuma calls for unity at ANC Conference as seven candidates vie to succeed him
But voters are frustrated with Zuma’s ANC. His administration has been plagued by scandal and corruption allegations. Since he took power in 2009, unemployment has risen to 28 percent while economic growth has slumped. The party’s majority fell below 60 percent for the first time after a poor performance in 2016 municipal elections.
The rift between the leading candidates is so stark that it risks splitting the party of Nelson Mandela in two. The ANC, which celebrated its 105th anniversary this year, led the fight against apartheid and has governed continuously since Mandela won the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.
Some analysts say that the party could fracture regardless of which candidate wins. Members of the losing faction may then form a new party, forcing the ANC into a governing coalition for the first time.
Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma, former chair of the African Union Commission
A former government minister who also served as chairwoman of the African Union Commission, Dlamini-Zuma has served in the cabinets of every South African president in the post-apartheid era. She has the support of the ANC’s influential women’s and youth leagues as well as the endorsement of Zuma and the provincial party leaders close to him.
A respected leader of the women’s wing of the ANC, she was appointed health minister in 1994 by the newly elected Nelson Mandela. She laid the groundwork for free public healthcare for the poor and made medicines more accessible. She later served a 10-year stint as foreign minister under Mandela’s successor and Zuma’s rival, Thabo Mbeki. As foreign minister she bolstered South Africa’s friendships with African countries and emerging economies like China despite the risk of angering the West.
20 Years ago, when I was Health Minister, I lobbied and executed for the The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act. Since then, deaths of women and girls due to illegal abortions has decreased by 90%. Womenâs lives matter! Womenâs Rights matter! And I will always fight for womenDr Dlamini Zuma (@DlaminiZuma) December 10, 2017
She advocates a radical approach to wealth redistribution, which has made her popular among poorer voters and those angry at continuing racial inequality in the country. But investors are concerned by her leftist economic policies and her hostility towards international companies, which she sees as part of a white monopoly dominating South Africa’s wealth.
The most common criticism of Dlamini-Zuma is that she is beholden to Zuma, whom she met in Swaziland when they were both exiles in the ANC underground. They had four children together and divorced in 1998 after 16 years of marriage. Some have said that Zuma supports Dlamini-Zuma as his successor as insurance against facing prosecution over corruption allegations. Dlamini-Zuma, however, is infuriated by the suggestion that she seeks the office to protect her ex-husband.
"I am my own woman and I have worked hard to be here," she told the Johannesburg Star newspaper in May.
"I have my own track record in the ANC and in government. I am a doctor and one of the longest-serving cabinet ministers under former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki – before Zuma became president," she was quoted as saying.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa
Also a veteran of the anti-apartheid movement, Cyril Ramaphosa launched the National Union of Mineworkers in 1982. He is a trained lawyer and a celebrated negotiator, known for his work defending the rights of black workers, negotiating the end of apartheid and drafting the 1996 constitution.
Mandela wanted Ramaphosa to be his successor but was pressured into picking Mbeki by ANC hardliners who had fought against apartheid from exile. Unlike Zuma and Dlamini-Zuma, Ramaphosa was not driven into exile for opposing apartheid, a fortuity that some hold against him.
When he was not picked as Mandela’s heir, Ramaphosa became an MP and played the lead role in drafting the post-apartheid constitution. But he later backed away from political life, leveraging his union connections into business ventures.
His investment vehicle Shanduka – "change" in the local Venda language – grew rapidly and acquired stakes in mining firms, mobile operator MTN and McDonald's South African franchise. He has a notorious love of sports cars, wine and hunting, and is now one of the country’s wealthiest politicians. With a net worth of $450 million, he has become a symbol of success for black capitalism in South Africa.
To his supporters, Ramaphosa’s business acumen makes him the candidate best equipped to turn around the economy that has floundered under Zuma.
"Early signs of a win for Cyril Ramaphosa, the more investor-friendly option, have provided support for the rand," said John Ashbourne, Africa economist at Capital Economics, in comments to Reuters.
But Ramaphosa has his detractors too. Many believe he has used his continued foothold in the ANC to gain insider information that he then used to benefit his businesses.
He is also seen by some as a puppet of foreign business interests. Ramaphosa was a board member at the multi-national company Lonmin when negotiations to end a 2012 strike at the Marikana platinum mine ended in police shooting and killing 34 strikers. An inquiry absolved Ramaphosa of responsibility, but many blame him for urging the authorities to intervene.
He has since returned to political life, rising quickly to become deputy president of the ANC and deputy president of South Africa under Zuma. Despite controversies of his own, he has lent credibility to Zuma’s scandal-ridden tenure, pledging to fight corruption and revitalise the economy.
We've raised the issue of youth unemployment with the private sector and they have responded positively. A million opportunities are going to be available to young people through jobs, learnerships internships & other economic opportunitiesCyril Ramaphosa (@DPRamaphosa) December 14, 2017
Still, many are unconvinced that he will be as tough on corruption as his rhetoric suggests.
“Cyril has been part of the machinery and has not acted on corruption so far,” said opposition politician Bantu Holomisa, a former ANC member.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)
Date created : 2017-12-16