With Cyril Ramaphosa being re-elected as leader of South Africa’s ruling party on Monday, he now has a clear path to winning another term as the country’s president in 2024. But analysts say Ramaphosa has been weakened politically by a corruption scandal and intra-party rivalries.
In the race to lead the African National Congress party, Ramaphosa beat former health minister Zweli Mkhize by almost 600 votes.
Political analyst Susan Boysen, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, says Ramaphosa’s side also controls four out of the party’s top seven positions.
“Including important positions like the national chair and treasurer general of the ANC. But yet, the secretary-general’s office will be one that is shared between Cyril Ramaphosa and pro-Mkhize people,” she said.
Despite Monday’s victory, she says Ramaphosa is too compromised to lead a convincing anti-corruption program.
An independent panel recently called for an impeachment inquiry relating to the theft of at least $580,000 from Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala game farm in February 2020.
Last week in parliament, a majority of ANC lawmakers voted not to adopt the report.
But several state-sponsored investigations into the incident are continuing and questions remain about the source of the money, whether it was declared for foreign exchange controls and why a police docket wasn’t opened.
“With regards to Phala Phala, I certainly think that we haven’t seen the end of the road yet,” said Boysen. “It is no clear-cut finding yet and opposition parties, I think, see the weakness there. They will certainly exhaust every possible channel of challenge to President Ramaphosa. And in that way too he will be a relatively weak to very weak president.”
Boysen says the ANC’s new deputy president Paul Mashatile, who has a fairly good reputation of service delivery in Gauteng province where he was premier, was the big winner of Monday’s party election.
She says he outmaneuvered many of his opponents and the Ramaphosa camp to win the seat. If anything happens to Ramaphosa, Mashatile is likely to become president.
On the whole, Boysen is unimpressed with the party’s choice for top seven, saying many of the figures are in her words, same old, same old. She notes that investigators called for ANC’s new deputy secretary-general, Nomvula Mokonyane, to be prosecuted for allegedly accepting bribes from a company that did business with the government.
Keith Gottschalk, retired senior lecturer of political science at the University of the Western Cape, says ultimately, it’s a relief for the country and ANC that Ramaphosa retained his position as head of the party.
“The speed at which Ramaphosa, who was the victim of a robbery, is suddenly twisted and spun into some sort of perpetrator is quite staggering but it is the way political battles are fought,” he said. “It reminds me vividly of the words of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former finance minister now head of the World Trade Organization who said quote: ‘Where you fight corruption, corruption fights back,’ unquote. And that’s what’s been going on here.”
The ANC’s 55th elective conference which started Friday, ends tomorrow.