New Leadership Under South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa
By admin December 21, 2017

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On Monday, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) rebuked President Jacob Zuma of South Africa by choosing Cyril Ramaphosa, an anti-apartheid protégé of Nelson Mandela and business tycoon as its new leader. With fierce rivalry in the race that exposed stark divisions in the party, Mr. Ramaphosa defeated cabinet minister Dlamini-Zuma, Mr. Zuma’s ex-wife, 2,440 votes to 2,261.

Ramaphosa’s victory stems from the support of reformers in the ANC, whom desire to root out the rampant corruption and attract back foreign investors. Despite Ms. Dlamini-Zuma promising radical economic transformation that Mr. Zuma never delivered, the ANC decided Ramaphosa has a better chance of renewing confidence in the nation and government. Even so, critics worry that as a wealthy elite of Mr. Zuma’s government that has been silent in matters of corruption, he is seen more as an honest broker than a fighter against corruption.

Cyril Ramaphosa was an advent fighter against apartheid, and he had been detained in 1974 and 1976 for his activism. As a union organizer, he also influenced and served as Mr. Mandela’s key negotiator in the talks that nonviolently led to the end of apartheid in 1994. Eventually, he became Mr. Mandela’s choice to become deputy president and eventual successor as the nation’s leader. However, this did not happen as the powerful cohort of anti-apartheid leaders successfully pushed for Thabo Mbeki. Mr. Ramaphosa eventually entered the private sector, and using his connections to the party, brilliantly became one of the richest businessmen in Africa.

Ramaphosa returned to politics in 2012, and has served as the deputy president under Mr. Zuma since 2014. He has largely supported Mr. Zuma, but has stayed silent on the president’ ethical problems and policies that has damaged the economy. It was not until more recently that Mr. Ramaphosa distanced himself from Mr. Zuma, eventually resulting in his fateful election victory.

With Ramaphosa as the leader of the ANC, there is uncertainty for Mr. Zuma’s future. In theory, he could remain as South Africa’s president until the national elections in 2019, but there is also a slim chance that Mr. Ramaphosa will “recall” President Zuma, which actually did occur back in 2008 when the ANC “recalled” the then-president Thabo Mbeki. Although the ANC would want to avoid two competing powers – one holding the presidency of the nation and the other the party, sacking Mr. Zuma would be a risky move that could split the party. If this were to occur, the decision would rest in the hands of the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC), which is its highest-decision making body. Even so, there are a host of problems that Mr. Zuma will leave, especially cronyism and an economy where inequality and lack of social mobility has impoverished many black South Africans.

Despite the stark divisions of the party congress members, ordinary citizens are generally relieved with Mr. Ramaphosa’s victory. To them, state corruption under Zuma’s leadership was rampant. Some also perceived Mr. Zuma’s move to “place” his ex-wife as audacious and further proof of corruption. Markets have also responded positively to the results, due to either perceptions of Ramaphosa as a stable candidate or someone who represents business interests. Regardless, Mr. Ramaphosa’s ascension as ANC’s leader brings an opportunity for the nation to reform.

Further Reading:

South Africa’s ANC picks Cyril Ramaphosa as leader

Cyril Ramaphosa Wins A.N.C. Leadership Battle in South Africa

Cyril Ramaphosa: The ANC’s latest false prophet

Will Jacob Zuma be ousted as South Africa’s president?

How the new ANC leadership can ‘recall’ Zuma as president of South Africa

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