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Real work starts now for new ANC leadership

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa now has the task of stabilising the economy and rooting out corruption.

The ANC's newly elected top six acknowledge their supporters at the party's national conference at Nasrec in Johannesburg on 18 December 2017. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The extensive set-up at Nasrec for both the African National Congress (ANC) and the media is now being dismantled.

ANC delegates are now making their way back home from what has been termed an intense and robust elective conference, coupled with controversies and big announcements.

The conference was first delayed by almost eight hours by a fight over credentials.

And then uncertainties on voting led to robust debates, resulting in the first ballots only being cast after midnight.

The announcement of the new top six officials was also delayed amid speculation of one or more demands for a recount.

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa now has the task of stabilising the economy and rooting out corruption.

WATCH: Cyril Ramaphosa's first address as ANC president

Ramaphosa’s triumph saw the rand strengthen by Monday night, with markets responding positively to what may now be an investor friendly economy.

He also helped broker a solution to a dispute around 68 so-called missing ballots, which may have tipped the vote for secretary general.

Wednesday’s major policy resolutions included land expropriation without compensation and the legalisation of sex work.

The downgrade of South Africa’s embassy to Israel was also announced.

The conference ended with a call for unity from the ANC’s new president and the release of the new NEC at 3am on Thursday.

The new ANC president has vowed stamp out corruption and pursue a policy of “radical economic transformation” that will speed up expropriation of land without compensation.

“This conference has resolved that corruption must be fought with the same intensity and purpose that we fight poverty, unemployment and inequality,” he said in his maiden speech at the close of a five-day party meeting at which he was elected.

“We must also act fearlessly against alleged corruption and abuse of office within our ranks,” Ramaphosa said in the early hours of Thursday after a long delay.

Ramaphosa, who is South Africa’s deputy president, was elected the new leader of the ANC on Monday, succeeding President Jacob Zuma as party head after Zuma’s presidency became tainted with corruption allegations.

Ramaphosa’s narrow victory over former cabinet minister and African Union Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, 68, is seen as a pivotal moment for the ANC, which launched black-majority rule under Nelson Mandela’s leadership 23 years ago but is now deeply divided with its image tarnished.

Ramaphosa paid tribute to Zuma in his speech, saying the ANC would be “united” despite a fractious campaign. Zuma had backed his ex-wife Dlamini-Zuma for ANC’s top job.

However, investors are concerned that Ramaphosa may not be able to push through policy changes because the ANC’s top decision-making group, known as the “Top Six”, was split down the middle, with three politicians apiece drawn from Ramaphosa’s camp and that of his rival Dlamini Zuma.

LISTEN: Mufamadi: 'ANC can break free from Zuma stranglehold'

FOCUS ON ECONOMY

Zuma has faced allegations of corruption since he became head of state in 2009 but has denied any wrongdoing. The president has also faced allegations that his friends, the wealthy Gupta businessmen, wielded undue influence over his government.

Zuma and the Guptas have denied the accusations.

Ramaphosa alluded to these allegations in his speech, saying “at the state level we must confront the reality that critical institutions of our state have been targeted by individuals and families, through the exercise of influence and the manipulation of governance processes and public resources.”

He said this had weakened the state-owned enterprises in Africa’s most industrialised economy. The continent’s traditional powerhouse has seen lethargic growth over the last six years and the jobless rate stands near record levels.

Ramaphosa also had a warning for corporate executives.

“We must investigate without fear or favour the so-called ‘accounting irregularities’ that cause turmoil in the markets and wipe billions off the investments of ordinary South Africans,” he said.

South African furniture retailer Steinhoff, has been embroiled in a scandal over accounting irregularities, which have wiped more than $10 billion off its market value over the past two weeks.

Ramaphosa also said he would aim to expedite job creation, improve the lacklustre economy and speed up the transfer of land to black people.

Two decades after the end of apartheid, the ANC is under pressure to redress racial disparities in land ownership where whites own most of the land.

“This conference has resolved that the expropriation of land without compensation should be among the mechanisms available to government to give effect to land reform and redistribution,” he said. He added the land transfers would be speeded up under the radical economic transformation programme, a vague ANC plan to tackle racial inequality.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)