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Sydney Mufamadi: Zuma has nothing of value to add to the ANC

ANC veteran Sydney Mufamadi says there’s no reason why President Jacob Zuma should continue to lead the country after the conference.

Former ANC President Jacob Zuma sings at the ANC's 54th national conference on 18 December 2017. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - African National Congress (ANC) veteran Sydney Mufamadi says there’s no reason why President Jacob Zuma should continue to lead the country after the conference.

He says that Zuma will not add any value to the party beyond the gathering.

“We don’t know why he should stay for one more day after this conference. He knows too that he has nothing of value to add to what the ANC is trying to do.”

When Cyril Ramaphosa won the tight vote to become the new leader of the ANC on Monday after years of near-misses, his loyal supporters jumped to their feet, pumping their fists and cheering.

But as the results for other top positions emerged, the cheers quickly evaporated, as it became clear that ANC officials close to Zuma would still control important levers of the ruling party.

WATCH: Zuma: I never wanted to be president

Ramaphosa, who has served as South Africa’s deputy president under Zuma since 2014, narrowly defeated former cabinet minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s ex-wife and preferred successor, in the race for the ANC’s top job.

On Tuesday supporters of Senzo Mchunu, Ramaphosa’s pick for secretary-general, disputed the vote count that saw him lose out to Magashule, a sign that Ramaphosa’s team was trying to gain greater control of the upper echelons of the ANC.

Analysts say the slim margin of Ramaphosa’s victory will help keep the ANC together but will make it difficult for Ramaphosa to pursue a pro-growth policy agenda, as the ANC faction that backed Dlamini-Zuma and puts greater emphasis on wealth redistribution will wield considerable influence.

Any attempt to remove the 75-year-old Zuma as South African president before his second term ends in 2019 - something which ANC officials close to Ramaphosa have called for - will also be complicated by Zuma allies retaining senior posts.

Zuma’s scandal-plagued time in office has badly tarnished the ANC’s image both at home and abroad and has seen economic growth slow to a near-standstill.

Zuma has survived several votes of no confidence because he controls large sections of the ANC through his use of political patronage.

Lukhona Mnguni, a political analyst at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said the ANC leadership outcome was a “poisoned chalice” for Ramaphosa because officials aligned with Zuma would constrain his room for manoeuvre.

“Ramaphosa’s team know this was no victory. He didn’t get the people he wanted and hopes for recalling (removing) Zuma have been dampened,” Mnguni said. “If Zuma is to be recalled, it would only be because Mabuza and Magashule gang up on him, which I don’t think is likely.”

Ramaphosa, 65, told reporters on Tuesday that the ANC’s new top six was a “unity leadership” which reflected the views of different sections of the party.

POLICY PARALYSIS?

Investors had hoped Ramaphosa, a former trade union leader and millionaire businessman, would secure a decisive win in the ANC race, putting him in a strong position to enact reforms which could help South Africa avoid further credit rating downgrades.

Dlamini-Zuma, who President Zuma publicly backed for ANC leader, was seen as more focussed on tackling racial inequality and struggled to distance herself from the corruption scandals that have dogged her ex-husband.

But in the new ANC top six announced on Monday, three officials were from the “slate” of Ramaphosa’s preferred candidates and three were from Dlamini-Zuma’s ticket.

“With no clear win for either the Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma or Cyril Ramaphosa slates, I expect the policy paralysis that we have seen will continue until one side ‘defeats’ the other,” said Geoff Blount, managing director at BayHill Capital.

Gwen Ngwenya at the Institute of Race Relations said expectations for sweeping policy change under Ramaphosa were overblown.

“The Ramaphosa of fantasy, the figure of a decisive man of action, has never manifest himself in reality,” she said, noting that promises Ramaphosa made before becoming deputy president never materialized.

One important consequence of the compromise leadership outcome seen on Monday is that it lessens the likelihood of the ANC splitting before the 2019 election - which had been raised by analysts as a possibility in the event of a clear victory for the Dlamini-Zuma faction.

Attention now shifts to the makeup of the ANC’s new National Executive Committee (NEC), a group of around 80 officials which steers the party and will be elected in the coming days.

Should the new NEC be just as split as the ANC’s top six, that would make the prospects for major reform even more remote.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

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