Ramaphosa Cheered as Presidential Campaign Gains Traction

Updated on
  • Northern Cape ANC members give candidate rousing welcome
  • Ruling ANC in danger of disintegrating, Ramaphosa says

South African President Jacob Zuma (right) and ANC deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa arrive at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Jan. 8, 2017.

Photographer: MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/Getty Images

Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid to succeed Jacob Zuma as South Africa’s president received a boost Friday when he secured an enthusiastic reception from ruling party members in the Northern Cape province.

About 700 African National Congress officials attending a provincial conference in the central town of Colesberg rose to sing and cheer as Ramaphosa, 64, arrived to address them, and made rolling hand signals used to indicate a substitution at soccer matches. The party, which is due to elect a new leadership in December, has seen a slide in support partly due to Zuma’s implication in a succession of scandals.

Ramaphosa’s ally, Zamani Saul, won the race to become chairman of the party in the province after his opponent, Sylvia Lucas, the provincial premier and an ally of the president, dropped out.

Earlier, Ramaphosa, who is the nation’s deputy president, told the crowd that the ANC “is in danger of slowly disintegrating.”

“Where once there was unity, we now find division. Where once there was selflessness, we now find self-interest,” he said.

The ANC branches in the nine provinces will have the biggest say in determining the party’s next leader, who will also be its presidential candidate in 2019 elections when Zuma is due to step down. While backing from the Northern Cape would bolster Ramaphosa’s campaign, the province accounted for just 5 percent of the ANC’s members at the last count in October 2015, the least of all the regions.

Ramaphosa still faces major challenges to win the party presidency. Zuma has indicated that he wants to be succeeded by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, his ex-wife and former head of the African Union Commission, and she has drawn backing from the ANC’s women’s league, parts of its youth wing and the premiers of three rural provinces.

Ramaphosa’s Challenge

“The Zuma side has been able to secure a president of the youth league, they’ve been able to do well with the ANC women’s league, they’ve got the military veterans,” Ralph Mathekga, an analyst at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, a Johannesburg-based research group, told an economists’ conference on Friday. “It takes a miracle to win the elective conference if you don’t have those people behind you.”

A former union leader, Ramaphosa has received the endorsement of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the country’s largest labor group. He’s focused his campaign on the need to fight corruption and mismanagement.

Ramaphosa urged the ANC to avoid a divisive leadership battle and come up with an agreed upon list of leaders to take the party forward. The next ANC leader must unite the party, shouldn’t be arrogant and should take advice from party members, he said.

“If we act now, with determination and purpose, we can rebuild, renew and unite our movement,” Ramaphosa said. “It must start here in the Northern Cape.”

— With assistance by Michael Cohen, and Arabile Gumede

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