Ramaphosa takes off the gloves

. . . as SA vice-pres­i­dent fights to suc­ceed Zuma

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

JOHANNESBURG — South African Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa has taken the gloves off in the con­test to be­come the na­tion’s next leader, de­liv­er­ing a scathing speech crit­i­ciz­ing “the rot” and wide­spread pa­tron­age plagu­ing the rul­ing African Na­tional Congress.

Ramaphosa stopped short of openly declar­ing his can­di­dacy to suc­ceed Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, 75, in a speech on Sun­day, but his ad­dress left no doubt that his cam­paign is now firmly un­der way. He made sev­eral thinly veiled at­tacks on Zuma, who’s in­di­cated that he’s back­ing his ex-wife and mother of four of his chil­dren, Nkosazana Dlamini-zuma, for the top post.

Dlamini-zuma, who’s spent the past few weeks travers­ing the coun­try drum­ming up sup­port while guarded by the pres­i­den­tial pro­tec­tion unit, took an early edge in the race to suc­ceed Zuma as ANC leader in De­cem­ber while Ramaphosa had run a sub­dued cam­paign, said Ralph Mathekga, an an­a­lyst at the Ma­pun­gubwe In­sti­tute for Strate­gic Re­flec­tion, a Johannesburg-based re­search group.

“It’s be­com­ing clear that he wants the po­si­tion of party pres­i­dent,” Mathekga said. “He’s be­come more de­ci­sive and could in­flict dam­age to the cam­paign of Zuma’s pre­ferred can­di­date.”

A lawyer who co-founded the Na­tional Union of Minework­ers, Ramaphosa, 64, helped ne­go­ti­ate a peace­ful end to apartheid and draft South Africa’s first demo­cratic con­sti­tu­tion. He lost out to Thabo Mbeki in the con­test to suc­ceed Nel­son Man­dela as pres­i­dent in 1999 and went into busi­ness, se­cur­ing con­trol of the Mc­don­ald’s fran­chise in South Africa and amass­ing a for­tune be­fore re­turn­ing to full-time pol­i­tics in 2012 as the ANC’S deputy leader.

Gord­han’s fir­ing Ap­pointed as the na­tion’s deputy pres­i­dent in 2014, Ramaphosa has spent much of his ten­ure de­fend­ing the ANC and gov­ern­ment in the face of a se­ries of scan­dals im­pli­cat­ing Zuma. He pub­licly dis­agreed with his boss for the first time this month af­ter Zuma fired Pravin Gord­han as fi­nance min­is­ter and prompted S&P Global Rat­ings and Fitch Rat­ings Ltd. to down­grade the coun­try’s credit rat­ing to junk. The rand plunged as much as 11 per­cent af­ter Zuma moved to replace Gord­han.

In his speech de­liv­ered at a me­mo­rial ser­vice for the late South African Com­mu­nist Party leader Chris Hani, Ramaphosa backed a rec­om­men­da­tion by the former graft om­buds­man that a ju­di­cial com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­gate if mem­bers of the Gupta fam­ily, who are friends with the pres­i­dent and are in busi­ness with his son, un­duly ben­e­fited from state con­tracts and tried to in­flu­ence cabi­net ap­point­ments. Zuma and the Gup­tas have de­nied wrong­do­ing.

“The al­le­ga­tions that there are pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als who ex­er­cise un­due in­flu­ence over state ap­point- ments and pro­cure­ment de­ci­sions should be a mat­ter of grave con­cern to the move­ment,” Ramaphosa said. “Th­ese prac­tices threaten the in­tegrity of the state, un­der­mine our eco­nomic progress and di­min­ish our abil­ity to change the lives of the poor.”

Mce­bisi Jonas, the former deputy fi­nance min­is­ter who al­leged that the Gup­tas of­fered him a pro­mo­tion in ex­change for pref­er­en­tial treat­ment, also spoke at the me­mo­rial ser­vice.

‘Pre­tend rules’ ANC rules dis­cour­age mem­bers from openly lob­by­ing for lead­er­ship posts, and say they should await nom­i­na­tion from its branches be­fore declar­ing their avail­abil­ity. Sev­eral se­nior party lead­ers have called for the reg­u­la­tions to be changed.

“We know those are ‘pre­tend rules’ and no­body ac­tu­ally plays by them,” said Su­san Booy­sen, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand’s School of Gov­er­nance. “The rules are there to pro­tect the in­cum­bent and their cho­sen suc­ces­sor.”

The ANC has won more than 60 per­cent of the vote in ev­ery na­tional elec­tion since it took power in the first mul­tira­cial one in 1994, plac­ing its next leader in pole po­si­tion to be­come the na­tion’s pres­i­dent in 2019 when Zuma is due to step down. The party will hold its in­ter­nal elec­tions at a Dec. 16-20 con­fer­ence in Johannesburg.

Anger, dis­ap­point­ment “Ramaphosa re­al­izes that this is the mo­ment to come out be­cause there is gen­eral sup­port for him and it comes in the con­text of anger and dis­ap­point­ment and peo­ple won­der­ing why on earth he has not come out to de­clare his can­di­dacy,” Booy- sen said.

Ron­nie Mamoepa, Ramaphosa’s spokesman, said he couldn’t com­ment on party mat­ters. Dlamini-zuma (68) had an early edge in the suc­ces­sion bat­tle, ac­cord­ing to 11 of 26 an­a­lysts sur­veyed by Bloomberg on Feb. 13 and Feb. 14, while 10 put Ramaphosa ahead, and five said the con­test was too early to se­lect a front-run­ner.

Ramaphosa faces ma­jor ob­sta­cles in his bid for the ANC’S top job. While he’s re­ceived the sup­port of the main la­bor fed­er­a­tion, Dlamini-zuma has the pub­lic back­ing of the ANC’S Women’s League and part of the party’s youth league, and can ex­pect the en­dorse­ment of pre­miers of three ru­ral prov­inces known as the “pre­mier league” who are al­lied with Zuma. Marikana killings There was a pub­lic up­roar in 2012 when Ramaphosa made a failed R19.5 mil­lion bid for a buf­falo cow and calf at a game auc­tion, a move op­po­si­tion par­ties said was scan­dalous given the coun­try’s en­dur­ing poverty.

The killing of 34 protesters by po­lice at Lon­min Plc’s Marikana plat­inum mine in 2012 fol­low­ing days of vi­o­lent strike ac­tion also dented Ramaphosa’s im­age. While he called the la­bor ac­tion “das­tardly crim­i­nal” in an email a day be­fore the shoot­ing and urged po­lice to take “con­comi­tant ac­tion,” a com­mis­sion of in­quiry cleared him of wrong­do­ing. A com­pany he led had a stake in the mine.

Un­der Zuma, the ANC suf­fered its worst elec­toral per­for­mance since the end of apartheid in mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions in Au­gust, los­ing con­trol of Pre­to­ria, the cap­i­tal, and the eco­nomic hub of Johannesburg.

While Ramaphosa still needs to build his sup­port base, the fact that he’s made it clear he’s in the race should bol­ster his chances, ac­cord­ing to Mathekga.

“Peo­ple can see he is a real op­tion,” he said.

FROM left Nkosazana Dlamini-zuma, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa.

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