South Africa's ANC party on the verge of electing a new leader

South African President Jacob Zuma is stepping down as president of his party, the African National Congress, allowing for a new leader. Whoever wins, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa or Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, will likely be the nation's next president.

Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Delegates sing and cheer at the 54th National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) where delegates had the opportunity to vote for the ANC's next leader in Johannesburg, South Africa on Dec. 17. The race between President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is currently too close to call.

The fight to lead South Africa's ruling African National Congress hung in the balance on Monday, with voters and markets on edge for a result that will set the direction for the country and the scandal-plagued party.

As officials counted ballots in the leadership vote, senior party members drew battle lines on social media, backing either Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa or Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – a former cabinet minister and the ex-wife of President Jacob Zuma.

A party spokesman said he was expecting a result by the late afternoon or early evening, though the process has been beset by delays.

ANC chairwoman Baleka Mbete told delegates election officials would join the delegates in the main conference area at 5 p.m. local time. It was unclear whether that signaled an imminent result.

The vote is perhaps the most pivotal moment for the ANC since it launched black-majority rule under Nelson Mandela's leadership 23 years ago. Mr. Zuma's presidency, tainted by graft accusations that he denies, has tarnished the party's image and raised the prospect of splits.

Whoever emerges at the helm of the 105-year-old liberation movement is likely to become the country's next president after elections in 2019.

"It is going to be very close," a senior ANC source said. "Both camps have spreadsheets where they have calculated the number of delegates on their side. Both sides have different assumptions and guesswork."

Mr. Ramaphosa a former trade union leader who became a businessman and is now one of the richest people in South Africa, has vowed to fight corruption and revitalize the economy, a message hailed by foreign investors.

Ms. Dlamini-Zuma, the president's preferred candidate, has pledged to tackle the racial inequality that has persisted since the end of white-minority rule.

They were the only candidates nominated for the ANC leadership at a conference in Johannesburg on Sunday night.

The party's chief whip Jackson Mthembu announced on Twitter that he voted for Ramaphosa, while police minister Fikile Mbalula tweeted that he had cast his vote for Dlamini-Zuma.

Zweli Mkhize, the outgoing ANC treasurer general, declined to say who he would vote for but said he had "absolute confidence" the delegates would make a good choice.

In a boost to Ramaphosa, courts ruled last week that officials from some provinces seen as supporting Dlamini-Zuma had been elected illegally and were barred from the conference.

The rand currency rose on the court orders and then extended its gains on Monday, racing to a 3-1/2-month high of 12.7300 earlier. Government bonds also firmed on hopes Ramaphosa would win the race.

"The rand is considerably stronger than where it was last week. I think a Cyril Ramaphosa win is priced in," said IG Markets currency strategist Shaun Murison.

"Please fasten your seatbelts!" Commerzbank analysts said in a note, aimed at traders holding rand positions.

Ramaphosa drew the majority of nominations from party branches scattered across the country. But the delegates are not bound by their branches when they vote at the conference.

"The race is extremely close," said Susan Booysen, a political analyst at the University of Witwatersrand's School of Governance in Johannesburg.

"Before today we said Dlamini-Zuma could emerge as a winner. Even if there is a strong lead in terms of branch nominations by the Ramaphosa camp, it's not clear-cut."

In his last speech as ANC president on Saturday, Zuma announced plans to raise subsidies for tertiary colleges and universities, a move analysts said was timed to appeal to the party's more populist members allied to Dlamini-Zuma, the first woman nominated as an ANC presidential candidate.

Zuma has faced allegations of corruption since he became head of state in 2009 but has denied any wrongdoing.

On Monday, Zuma visited a part of the conference where businesses and charitable foundations had set up stands.

"I am happy to say now I'm bowing out because I think from my own point of view I made my contribution," he told reporters.

This story was reported by Reuters.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to South Africa's ANC party on the verge of electing a new leader
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today