SSouth Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa will continue to lead the ruling African National Congress (ANC). At the 55th ANC party conference in Nasrec near Johannesburg, 2,476 delegates voted for the 70-year-old party leader. His challenger, former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, gained 1,897 votes. The result was announced in Nasrec on Monday morning after many delays. Observers spoke of a close race. The victory paves the way for Ramaphosa to run for another term as president after the 2024 general election.
Behind the scenes at the party conference, feverish negotiations continued until the very end about filling positions in the party’s top management body, which now consists of seven instead of six members. Allegedly, delegates from some provinces who had previously supported Ramaphosa switched sides because their preferred candidates for the other positions in the “top seven” failed to gain a majority. At the start of the convention, a Ramaphosa victory had been widely expected. But growing support for Mkhize had emerged during the conference.
Ramaphosa, a former apartheid-era union leader, was thought to be a possible successor to Nelson Mandela before he retired and became very wealthy as an investor thanks to Black Economic Empowerment policies in South Africa. In 2014, also under pressure from his current rival Mkhize, he returned to politics as deputy to then-President Jacob Zuma.
After his resignation due to allegations of corruption, Ramaphosa took over the leadership of the state in 2018. A year earlier, he had won the party leader election at the 2017 party convention, also held in Nasrec, but by a slim margin of 179 votes over opposing candidate Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Back then, the top six were made up of equal numbers of Ramaphosa and Zuma supporters.
His assumption of office after the Zuma presidency, which was marked by upheavals and corruption scandals, triggered a great deal of relief and hope. But the promised reforms and the fight against corruption progressed more slowly than hoped, also due to resistance in his own party. Most recently, his reputation suffered as a result of the Phala-Phala affair involving wads of money hidden on a sofa on his game farm. The electricity crisis has also increased dissatisfaction with the government. The national state electricity supplier Eskom can no longer meet the demand and has to switch off the electricity with interruptions for up to ten hours a day.
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