ANC National Conference to Take Place from 16 December – Political Risks
14 Dec 2017
South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), is set to elect a new leader to replace President Jacob Zuma. While Zuma will stay on as President, the party’s new leader will take the lead in the 2019 general election. The ANC’s national conference will take place at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg between 16 and 20 December. Seven candidates are vying to replace Jacob Zuma at the top of the ANC, however, only two candidates are seen to have a realistic chance to do so – Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The leadership battle is currently too close to call.
- The national conference for the African National Congress (ANC) is due to take place from 16-20 December 2017.
- The ANC has led South Africa since the end of Apartheid.
- The conference will see the party elect a new leader to replace President Jacob Zuma, with seven candidates standing.
Political: South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), is set to elect a new leader to replace President Jacob Zuma. While Zuma will stay on as President, the party’s new leader will take the lead in the 2019 general election. The ANC’s national conference will take place at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg between 16 and 20 December. Seven candidates are vying to replace Jacob Zuma at the top of the ANC, however, only two candidates are seen to have a realistic chance to do so – Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The leadership battle is currently too close to call.
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The ANC have led South Africa since the end of white-minority rule and the first free elections in 1994. Despite being associated with freedom for many millions of South Africans, the ANC have faced a period of incomparable crisis and dwindling support. Under Zuma, allegations of corruption and factional infighting have consumed the party. Indeed, as recently as August 2017, Zuma narrowly faced a vote of no confidence in the National Assembly, with some in his party voting against him or abstaining.
Many in South Africa feel that the economy has stagnated since the turn of the century; unemployment currently sits at over 25 per cent, more than half of the country lives in poverty, and South Africa’s credit rating has been downgraded on a number of occasions.
The two primary candidates:
Ramaphosa currently serves as Zuma’s deputy. He is a veteran of the anti-Apartheid movement and worked closely with Nelson Mandela to bring an end to white minority rule. Despite initially serving as a trade union leader, Ramaphosa has gone on to become a successful businessman and one of the country’s richest men. Due to this, his candidacy is favoured by business leaders. He is not without controversy as he was on the board of mining company Lonmin when the 2012 Marikana killings occurred. This was the single most lethal use of force by South African security forces since 1960. In total 47 people died as a result of this labour strike. Emails emerged in which Ramaphosa called for “concomitant action” to be taken against the striking miners, though he has been cleared of wrongdoing by a judicial panel.
He is criticised for being out of touch with ordinary people and having an affluent support base; a victory for Ramaphosa may alienate the ANC’s political base. However, he is viewed as the candidate more likely to tackle corruption, strengthen the economy, and steady the market.
Just like Ramaphosa, Dlamini-Zuma is an anti-apartheid veteran. She has served in all post-apartheid cabinets, including in the Departments of Health, Foreign Affairs, and Home Affairs, before becoming the Chair of the African Union commission between 2012 and 2016. She has been accredited with turning around the performance of the Department of Home Affairs.
She is also the ex-wife of Jacob Zuma. Commentators suggest that this relationship serves as both her greatest strength and her greatest weakness in the leadership race. They are both able to call upon widespread grassroots support. Indeed, compared to Ramaphosa, Dlamini-Zuma is viewed as more down to earth, even if she lacks the charisma of other ANC leaders. Her opponents, both within and outside of the ANC, have suggested that she has cut a deal with her former husband; she gets his support and all that it entails and in return, he avoids prosecution for corruption charges when he leaves office. Some in the ANC fear her candidature would mark a continuation of the Zuma legacy – corruption and economic stagnation – rather than a more radical shift many desire.
There are suggestions in South African media that this race, already bitterly fought, may turn particularly ugly. The media have reported that Zuma and his supporters may cause the conference to collapse or may take illegal steps to ensure that the conference does not take place, to ensure an unfavourable outcome does not occur, this includes vote rigging. A Ramaphosa victory would be an unfavourable outcome for President Zuma. He has amassed wealth as president, from legitimate and illegitimate sources, (according to reports) and does not want to give this up. Zuma has avoided a number of charges while in office and will want to continue to avoid prosecution when he departs. A court has ruled that 783 counts of corruption, money laundering, and fraud against Zuma, relating to an arms deal made in the 1990s should be revived. His ongoing relationship with the Gupta family has also led to allegations that the Guptas influenced political appointments and secured lucrative state contracts through their relationship with Zuma. To avoid prosecution, Zuma needs power in the hands of loyalist officials.
Whoever becomes leader will face an uphill battle to unite the party in preparation for elections in 2019. If this does not occur, the party faces the serious threat of losing power for the first time since the end of minority rule. Indeed, support for the party fell to an all-time low of 54 per cent in municipal elections last year, down from a peak of 70 per cent in 2004. A recent computer-generated poll analysis suggested that a victory for Dlamini-Zuma would result in an electoral loss in 2019. However, either of the two major candidates may lead the ANC to electoral defeat for the first time in South Africa’s democratic period.
Travellers should note that irrespective of the results of this battle for leadership of the ANC, protests are possible. Such events may occur both within and outside the conference as factions clash. Protests may also occur across the country. Unrest in South Africa has the potential to turn violent even if it initially seems peaceful. Travellers should avoid all large gatherings.
The political risk remains moderate in South Africa, as political stability is secure in the short-term due to robust political institutions. However, endemic corruption is widespread and is likely to have significant implications financially in the long term. Corruption continues to erode the authority of political and state institutions. Economic instability will be further exacerbated by the fluctuating exchange rates and junk status credit ratings; an international response to South Africaâs political uncertainty.
Travellers to South Africa should remain up to date with ongoing political developments, as there is potential for further marches and protests. It is recommended for all travellers to avoid large political gatherings as they may escalate quickly into violent episodes. The primary security threat to travellers in South Africa remains crime. A variety of criminal activity is evident throughout the country, from petty thievery to violent carjackings and burglaries. It is recommended for travellers to prearrange a security driver and vehicle prior to their arrival in country. A security driver will mitigate the potential threat of transiting high-risk suburbs for crime and civil unrest. Local transport infrastructure is weak and prone to robbers or scams.
For all travel to South Africa, Solace Global would advise that clients seek pre-travel security advice, employ travel-tracking technology, and undertake travel risk management planning.
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