Eurasia Group | The Fight to Lead the ANC

The Fight to Lead the ANC 

Eurasia Live 
2 March 2017
sddf Supporters of the African National Congress chant slogans during ANC leader Jacob Zuma's election campaign in Atteridgeville, South Africa July 5, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo
Keep your friends close and your ex-African union leaders closer Last month, fists started flying on the floor of the South African parliament. Embattled President Jacob Zuma was trying to deliver a speech before the melee broke out, but opposition leaders from the Economic Freedom Fighters party repeatedly interrupted him. The rest is YouTube history

Fisticuffs aside, Eurasia Group's Africa Analyst Darias Jonker argues that the real fight to watch in the next year is actually within President Zuma's own African National Congress party. As Zuma's favorability ratings continue to slide, the long-reigning ANC party is facing its first real opposition, and its first real power vacuum since Nelson Mandela's post-apartheid government. 

Who's in the running to replace him? Cyril Ramaphosa, a former deputy president is a frontrunner, as well as the ex-African Union Chairperson (and ex-wife of President Zuma) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Given the ANC's recent stumbles, it is not clear whether the deputy president or ex-wife will prevail, but as we've seen with sub-Saharan African leaders, there's nothing like family. 

Video and transcript below. [For more on South Africa, check out our Top Risks report from earlier this year]. 


The big political story in South Africa this year is the leadership race of the African National Congress, the ruling party, which has been established since 1912 but has been in charge of the country since democracy dawned in 1994. It is of course the party of Nelson Mandela, currently being led by Jacob Zuma – a very controversial president. It is a party which suffered a big defeat relative to its previous good performance where its support dropped to below 60 percent for the first time in the 2016 local government election. This is largely attributed to President Zuma, and now the party will battle it out to see who can lead the party into recovery.

On the two sides we have the most likely candidates being Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former cabinet minister who has just stepped down as chairperson of the African Union, where she was based at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. On the other hand, we have Cyril Ramaphosa, the current deputy president of the ANC and of the country. Both have got very strong roots to the anti-apartheid movement.

They have got their own respective constituencies. It's really going to be a heated race because the faction that seems to be supporting Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is the patronage network which is associated with President Jacob Zuma who also happens to be her ex-husband. She is close to him, they have four children together, and the expectation is that she must keep him out of jail because of pending corruption charges against him. So whoever wins this, wins the heart and soul of the ANC.
Darias Jonker analyzes the political economy of Southern Africa, with a focus on South Africa, Mozambique, and Angola.