Vote Count Starts in Election for Leader of South Africa's ANC

Updated on
  • More than 4,700 ANC delegates voted after tight race
  • Ramaphosa, Dlamini-Zuma battling to succeed Jacob Zuma
"Stark divisions" between the two sides. Bloomberg’s Amogelang Mbatha reports from Johannesburg.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress started counting the votes in the election of a new leader to replace President Jacob Zuma in a close race between his former wife and his deputy.

The vote ended Monday at a national conference in Johannesburg following a bitter dispute over a decision to exclude almost a 10th of the original 5,240 delegates who the party ruled weren’t properly accredited. Balloting started after the ANC had earlier announced a postponement of the vote, which was originally scheduled to begin Saturday.

In the run-up to the conference, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, 65, won more nominations from the party branches than Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the 68-year-old former chairwoman of the African Union Commission.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, left, and Cyril Ramaphosa

Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

“Unless there is electoral fraud of some kind, my reading of the mood of the conference is that, if anything, Ramaphosa is likely to win more comfortably as some delegates decide to slip the shackles of their provincial barons,” said Richard Calland, a political analyst and associate law professor at the University of Cape Town.

Besides the ANC leader, the delegates are voting for five other top officials. The race has caused deep rifts in the 105-year-old ANC and unnerved investors seeking political and policy clarity.

The rand gained as much as 1.5 percent and traded 0.9 percent stronger at 12.9882 per dollar as of 12:39 p.m. in Johannesburg, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Overnight implied volatility soared to a record 73 percent, suggesting traders are hedging for a large swing after the result.

Zuma Scandals

The conference is taking place as Zuma’s immersion in a succession of scandals is eroding the party’s standing to such an extent that it’s now at risk of losing its majority in 2019 elections. Support for the party slipped to an all-time low of 54 percent in last year’s municipal elections, from a peak of almost 70 percent in 2004, and it lost control of Johannesburg, the economic hub, and Pretoria, the capital, to opposition coalitions.

Ramaphosa, one of the wealthiest black South Africans, has pledged to revive the struggling economy and stamp out corruption. Backed by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the nation’s largest labor group, and the South African Communist Party, he’s pledged to revive a struggling economy and stamp out corruption.

Dlamini-Zuma, who’s backed by the party’s women’s and youth leagues, has echoed the president’s call for “radical economic transformation” to redistribute wealth to the black majority.

In a report delivered to the conference, Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe said the ANC was riven by factionalism, showing serious signs of decline and in danger of the losing the electoral majority it’s held since white-minority rule ended in 1994. He said the party failed to respond adequately to criticism of Zuma and allegations that private companies wielded undue influence over the state, a phenomenon known in South Africa as state capture.

“Rebuilding the reputation and image of the movement should be a priority,” Mantashe said. “The risk of losing power is real.”

— With assistance by Michael Cohen, and Rene Vollgraaff

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