The 54th African National Congress (ANC) elective conference has now passed and Cyril Ramaphosa has emerged as the President of the ANC, victorious over his rival for the presidency: Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
However, despite his victory, Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC are faced with a number of challenges that urgently need attention and tact.
Some of the issues that the new ANC president has to deal with can be listed as follows:
Factionalism and Tribalism
Unfortunately, president Zuma’s reign as ANC president saw tribalism and consequently factionalism permeating the organisation like never before.
In fact President Jacob Zuma’s politics at the helm of the ANC can be described as a form of “ethnic nationalism” where ethno-nationalism can be defined as “support for the political interests of a particular ethnic group.”
For example, Jacob Zuma managed to beat Thabo Mbeki at the 2007 ANC elective conference in Polokwane by wooing the ethnic demographic of Zulu speaking ANC supporters particularly from his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.
This is the same strategy that he used to be reelected as ANC president in Mangaung in 2012, and it is the same strategy that the Zuma camp attempted to implement on behalf of presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma in 2017.
However, in 2017 that strategy has failed.
One of the reasons is because some of the ANC delegates from the Provincial Executive Committees (PECs) of KwaZuluNatal ,Free State as well as some ANC branches from the North-West were not allowed to vote as a result of a court ruling.
This was a blow to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s bid and she narrowly lost by just under 200 votes.
Her loss has upset a significant number of pro-Zuma supporters from KwaZuluNatal.
As a result, the new ANC president has to hit the ground running and work tirelessly in order to placate disgruntled supporters and unite the party as a whole.
The first best course of action for him is perhaps to offer incentives to senior ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) members who belong to the pro-Zuma faction; particularly those from KwaZulu Natal.
If he fails to do so, he risks losing votes to an ethno-nationalist movement in the form of the resurgent Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) when the 2019 elections arrive.
Besides tribalism and factionalism, President Jacob Zuma leaves the ANC with a legacy of corruption.
During his two terms at the helm of the organization, the ANC has been scandalized by ‘Guptagate,’ Nkandla, ‘State-Capture’ and a nuclear deal, notwithstanding President Zuma’s 783 charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering.
Unfortunately the scandalized and tarnished perceptions of the ANC as a corrupt organization will take more than political will to fix.
Even if Cyril Ramaphosa determines to root out corruption in the ANC, he must remember that a significant number of the ANC NEC members are staunch supporters of the Zuma faction.
Such members include David Mabuza who is the Premier of Mpumalanga and now also the deputy President of the ANC.
David Mabuza has staunchly supported Jacob Zuma since 2007.
During his reign as Mpumalanga Premier , Mabuza has earned a reputation for ruling by fear and violence, and has allegedly left a trail of political assassinations and allegations of wide-scale corruption in his wake.
At some point, Mabuza allegedly took a trip to Russia with the Guptas on their private jet.
This all spells out trouble for Cyril Ramaphosa and his supporters who generally thought that voting for Cyril Ramaphosa would mean an end to Jacob Zuma’s legacy of corruption.
That misconception is soon to become apparent as the pro-Zuma faction members in the ANC NEC are likely to coalesce around David Mabuza and continue with their corrupt tendencies as normal.
Conceivably, there are too many senior members in the ANC implicated in corruption, and there is no way for Cyril Ramaphosa to punish them all without causing disunity in the organization.
It is therefore likely that Cyril Ramaphosa will secretly offer amnesty to senior ANC members like David Mabuza in exchange for individual loyalty and general party unity.
As part of his legacy, it must be noted that President Jacob Zuma leaves his party members doused with unconstructive populist rhetoric and the latest dance moves.
President Zuma will be remembered for songs like “Umshini Wami” and phrases like “White Monopoly Capital” and “Radical Economic Transformation,” which are all populist in nature, and have stirred an expectation among the ANC laity which Cyril Ramaphosa will have to fulfill.
On a continent like Africa (and particularly in countries like South Africa and Zimbabwe) where clarity on policy is needed in order to lure investors, populist rhetoric like “radical economic transformation” can be likened to very cheap liquor which quickly intoxicates but has long lasting side effects like headaches and nausea.
That is what President Zuma’s populism has done to the ANC and the South African economy- it has left a lot of headaches for his successor.
His last populist blow was his announcement that the South African government will subsidize free higher education for the poor and working class students and Cyril Ramaphosa will be obliged to fulfill this promise.
If he fails to do so, we can expect a return to the “fees must fall” protests in February 2018.
Ultimately Cyril Ramaphosa has a lot of work to do in order to repair the damage caused by 10 years of Jacob Zuma’s politics.
The claims that President Jacob Zuma has ‘left the ANC in tact’ are ridiculous, if not laughable.
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