South Africa's ANC Chooses President Zuma's Replacement On 2019 Ballot

Dec 18, 2017
Originally published on December 19, 2017 1:50 am

Updated at 11:50 p.m. ET

South Africa's Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has been chosen to become the new part chief of the African National Congress, placing him in position to succeed President Jacob Zuma in 2019 elections. Ramaphosa beat out former cabinet minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the post.

It is a pivotal moment for the ANC, the 105-year-old freedom movement once led by President Nelson Mandela in the fight against apartheid. However, Zuma's two terms have been marred by scandal and accusations of corruption.

As Peter Granitz reports for Morning Edition from Johannesburg, Ramaphosa, who left politics in the 1990s and amassed a fortune in the private sector, was backed by investors, while Dlamini-Zuma had support from the women's and youth leagues.

"Policy details and discussions have been scant during the campaign," Peter reports.

The Associated Press writes: "Despite being part of Zuma's administration, the 65-year-old Ramaphosa has styled himself in recent months as a reformer who will steer South Africa away from the corruption scandals that have hurt the economy and briefly sent it into recession this year."

As NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reported last week, Zuma "stands accused of patronage and allowing state capture — as it's called here — letting powerful outside interests buy influence in government and even appoint and fire ministers, charges he denies."

Reuters adds: "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."

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The African National Congress - this is the liberation movement that fought the apartheid government and eventually won control of South Africa in democratic elections - they are selecting a new leader today. And Peter Granitz has more from Johannesburg.

PETER GRANITZ, BYLINE: Thousands of ANC delegates from across South Africa are gathering in Johannesburg to elect a new party leader. The voting is done in private but the distinctly South African campaigning is done in public. Clad in the yellow, green and black of the ANC flag, they sing songs on the hall floor, struggle songs that hearken back to the apartheid era and songs in support of their preferred candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing in foreign language).

GRANITZ: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has the backing of more party branches than former government minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. She's expected to win support from the women's and youth leagues. Lerato Beaula (ph), a delegate from the North West province, supports Dlamini-Zuma.

LERATO BEAULA: She knows the sufferings of the South Africans.

GRANITZ: Policy details and discussions have been scant during the campaign. Analysts assumed Dlamini-Zuma, a medical doctor who was married to President Zuma before divorcing, would pursue a more populist economic agenda, one she calls radical economic transformation. Investors hope Ramaphosa wins. He left politics in the 1990s and amassed a fortune in the private sector. The winner of the ANC race will be the party's nominee for president of the country in 2019.

President Zuma will remain the country's president until then, unless the new ANC president chooses to recall him. Zuma's tenure as ANC president has been disastrous for the party. Since he seized control of the ANC in 2007, the party has seen its electoral advantage dwindle in each election. Political analyst Susan Booysen says the ANC has declined because of voter discontent with Zuma's seemingly endless string of corruption scandals.

SUSAN BOOYSEN: With a view not just to be true in the longer term, to ANC serving the people and not themselves but also with a view to the 2019 national elections in South Africa where People will really be looking at a new page in the ANC being turned.

GRANITZ: That new page could be a humbling election where the ANC loses its outright majority and needs to form a coalition for the first time, or worse yet, an election where the party loses its majority and for the first time in democratic South Africa, finds itself out of power.

For NPR News, I'm Peter Granitz in Johannesburg. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.