South Africa ANC Super-Branches to Boost Dlamini-Zuma, Maine Says

  • Larger branches send more delegates to the national conference
  • Branches that endorsed Cyril Ramaphosa have fewer members

South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has support from more than half of the branches in the nation’s ruling party to be its next leader, but he may have won the wrong ones for him to secure the position.

Ramaphosa was nominated for the presidency of the African National Congress by about 40 percent more branches than Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. However, those with more than 100 members -- known as super-branches -- send extra delegates to the national elective conference that’s due to start Dec. 16, and they are in regions where his main rival is the clear favorite, said Collen Maine, leader of the party’s youth league and a supporter of Dlamini-Zuma.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma


The winner of the race will be the ANC’s presidential candidate in the 2019 elections that are set to be the toughest since Nelson Mandela led the party to power at the end of apartheid in 1994. The election has caused deep rifts within the 105-year-old ANC, weighed on the rand and nation’s bonds and unnerved investors seeking political and policy clarity.

Her campaign “is not dead in the water,” Ralph Mathekga, a Johannesburg-based independent political analyst, said by phone Thursday. “If she can manage to get support from the bigger branches which are sending bigger delegations, then she may actually be able to neutralize the branch numbers coming out for Ramaphosa.”

Read more on the ANC election race and why it’s still wide open

In KwaZulu-Natal, the province with the largest ANC membership, Dlamini-Zuma won endorsement from 454 branches and Ramaphosa 191. That gives her backing from 1,330 branches nationwide compared with 1,860 for Ramaphosa, according to tallies released by the party’s nine provincial structures and collated by Bloomberg.

Most of the provinces that backed Ramaphosa, 65 -- such as the Western Cape, Northern Cape and Gauteng -- have one delegate per branch, while KwaZulu-Natal is sending 870 people to the conference.

“It has always been difficult for anyone to win the ANC electoral conference without winning KwaZulu-Natal, because KwaZulu-Natal sends a large number of delegates,” Mathekga said.

Delegate Numbers

The branches will account for 90 percent of the 5,240 voting delegates at the conference, while the rest will come from the party’s leadership structures and its youth, women and veterans leagues. Each league has 60 delegates with a vote to cast. Branches with 100 members or fewer send one delegate to the Johannesburg gathering, while those with more deploy an extra person for each 250 additional members.

Most investors would prefer that Ramaphosa, a lawyer, former labor-union leader and one of the wealthiest black South Africans, get the top job. He’s pledged to revive the ailing economy, reduce a 28 percent unemployment rate and combat corruption if elected.

League Support

Dlamini-Zuma, a former chairwoman of the African Union Commission and Zuma’s ex-wife, has unwavering support from the women’s and youth leagues. The veterans’ unit hasn’t declared an outright preferred candidate to lead the continent’s oldest liberation movement.

The campaign of Dlamini-Zuma, 68, looked beyond the branch-endorsement process that gave Ramaphosa a semblance of a lead and focused instead on the actual delegates that will be voting in a secret ballot, Maine said in an interview in Bloomberg’s Johannesburg office Wednesday.

“Branch nominations do not amount to delegates to congress,” he said. “The people who matter most are the delegates.”

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