Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has an edge in the race to become the next leader of the ANC, according to a survey of analysts.

Sixteen of 26 analysts canvassed by Bloomberg named Ramaphosa as the front-runner to take over the helm of the party from President Jacob Zuma at its national conference in December, while five expect Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the former chairperson of the African Union Commission and the president’s former wife, to win. One put Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe ahead and four said it was too soon or impossible to select a likely winner.

The survey, conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, gauged the views of political science professors and lecturers from eight South African universities, country risk advisers and research-group analysts. Expectations of a Ramaphosa victory have increased markedly since a February survey, when 10 analysts put him in the lead, 11 said Dlamini-Zuma was ahead and six said they could not identify a front-runner.

"Ramaphosa’s fortunes have risen because he has declared his hand and is campaigning openly," said Daryl Glaser, a political science professor at the University of the Witwatersrand. "Public esteem for Dlamini-Zuma has crashed because she has been closely associated with Zuma, but I certainly wouldn’t write her off."

The 105-year-old ANC has won more than 60% of the vote in every national election since it took power in 1994, placing its next leader in pole position to replace Zuma as the nation’s president when his second and final term ends in 2019.

Zuma scandals

Zuma, who’s been dogged by scandals during his eight years in office, has indicated that he wants Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him and several of his closest allies, including the ANC’s women’s and youth leagues, have aligned themselves with her campaign.

While Ramaphosa’s campaign has focused on the need to combat corruption, Dlamini-Zuma has largely been silent on the issue and has echoed Zuma’s call for "radical economic transformation" to address racial income disparities dating back to apartheid rule. The deputy president has secured the backing of union federation Cosatu and party leaders in the Northern Cape.

Five of the analysts said a September 12 high court ruling that overturned the election of ANC leaders allied to Zuma in KwaZulu-Natal, which has the biggest number of ANC members, had boosted Ramaphosa’s campaign. Nominations for the ANC presidency are due to formally open later in September. Other officials who’ve declared their candidacies are Baleka Mbete, the speaker of Parliament, Zweli Mkhize, the ANC’s treasurer-general who announced last week he would accept the nomination, and Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

Ramaphosa is a lawyer who co-founded the National Union of Mineworkers, helped negotiate a peaceful end to apartheid and led the drafting of SA’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, amassing a fortune before returning to full-time politics in 2012, when he became the ANC deputy president.

Dlamini-Zuma qualified as a medical doctor and served as minister of health, foreign affairs and home affairs, before being elected to head the AU Commission in 2012. She and Zuma were divorced in 1998 and have four children together.

Bloomberg

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