If the ANC’s policy conference provided one clear signal, it is that Cyril Ramaphosa, the former head of the National Union of Mineworkers and the country’s deputy president, is now the front runner to succeed SA’s hopelessly compromised leader, Jacob Zuma. Before last week’s conference the leadership race was wide open, with Ramaphosa (64) seen as even money against Zuma’s pick, his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (68). But Zuma’s faction experienced a series of embarrassing defeats on key issues at the conference. This gave Ramaphosa, a lawyer and former chairman of Bidvest, the advantage on a platter; Zuma’s hitherto-dominant faction is creaking under an avalanche of scandals — most notably involving the president’s friends, the Guptas. The policy conference, while a disappointment for those expecting fireworks, did deliver on one key aspect: it illustrated starkly that the fightback against Zuma’s shadow state of patronage-based politics is most certainly on. This week, in an...

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