First published on December 21, 2017.

Former ANC president Jacob Zuma took a deep breath and clenched his fists as Cyril Ramaphosa’s name was read out as the new leader of the party.

On stage Ramaphosa was wiping away tears. Zuma pursed his lips. He tried to smile but could only muster a smirk before his mouth pursed again. He shifted in his chair, unable to hide his disappointment even though there was a sea of reporters on the floor in front of him.

The past year of ANC campaigning — so intense it was feared the party would not survive its elective conference — all boiled down to this moment. And in this moment, Zuma lost. He had set the stage for a bruising battle between Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and his deputy, Ramaphosa, when he pronounced ahead of the 2014 election that the next president of the ANC should be a woman.

His allies in the ANC Women’s League defied party protocol by endorsing Dlamini-Zuma a day after the party’s national executive committee (NEC) ruled that no candidates to succeed Zuma should be named.

Zuma, too, went against the party when he endorsed Dlamini-Zuma at a prayer meeting before the official nomination process began.

He badly wanted her in the post. Had she won, he in all probability would have been asked to step down. Her national caucus had decided last month to ask him to make way for Dlamini-Zuma before the ANC’s January 8 anniversary statement, so that she could "prove her worth" before the 2019 general election.

And they would have protected his "legacy".

But she did not win. Zuma is now a dead man walking.

Ramaphosa must remove him from his post to restore the integrity of the party and government, the cornerstone of his campaign.

Zuma’s entanglements with the law are so many and so complicated that he is set to face an onslaught from all fronts, without the cover of the party.

Cyril Ramaphosa was named the new president of the African National Congress on Monday. Subscribe to TimesLIVE here:

Only the 80-member NEC, or a national conference, can "recall" a sitting president.

The decision is likely to be taken by the new NEC, unless the structure elected this week is packed with Zuma backers, as the last one was. This is why, despite Ramaphosa’s election, the battle for control is not over yet.

It is in government that Ramaphosa would be able to exercise his authority more effectively for now. The courts have already empowered him to appoint a new national director of public prosecutions (NDPP). Zuma is appealing but this is simply postponing the inevitable.

Even if Zuma wins on appeal, Ramaphosa would probably appoint the next NDPP as SA president should he lead the ANC to victory in 2019, which is likely.

Zuma has appealed against the high court judgment on state capture — and that commission of inquiry will be appointed by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. Zuma’s time is running out.

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