POLITICS

#ANC105: It's Game-On As Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa Square Off

This leadership race is every bit as important as the one when Thabo Mbeki and Cyril Ramaphosa squared off to succeed Nelson Mandela.

08/01/2017 14:07 SAST | Updated 08/01/2017 16:17 SAST
Stringer . / Reuters
African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma addresses a news conference during the closing ceremony of the 22nd Ordinary Session of the African Union summit in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa January 31, 2014. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri (ETHIOPIA - Tags: POLITICS)

The outgoing African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma officially threw her hat into the ring for the party's presidency on the eve of the ANC January 8 birthday celebrations. It may have resembled a knife in the ring for the party's deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.

A successful businessman, he stood for that position at the party's last conference in Mangaung in 2012 on the understanding that the ANC presidential cloak would be his later this year. Now Dlamini-Zuma has opened up a two-horse race.

Ramaphosa stood for that position at the party's last conference in Mangaung in 2012 on the understanding that the ANC presidential cloak would be his later this year. Now Dlamini-Zuma has opened up a two-horse race.

Africa has had three female heads of state and if a powerhouse like South Africa put up a female candidate come the next election in 2019, this would be significant, both at home and globally.

Liberia's president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who was Africa's first woman president leaves office this year.

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim was Mauritius's first woman president while Burundi had a female prime minister in Sylvie Kinigi. There have been women who have acted as prime minister and president on the rest of the continent.

The gender ticket is important, both for progressive and political principles as South Africa has always been a leader at elevating women in politics, although its pole position has recently been beaten by Rwanda.

While ANC stalwarts attempted to broker a settlement between Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa to ensure they ran on the same ticket (one as president and one as deputy) for both the party and in the next election, that gambit has not worked. This may be because both candidates are in their mid-sixties and need to take a jump at the top job or risk being too old. By the time of the next election, Dlamini-Zuma would be 69 years old while Ramaphosa would be 66 years old.

While the governing ANC has lost control of four key South African cities to opposition parties (Cape Town has been run by the DA for years. The party lost control of Johannesburg, Pretoria and Nelson Mandela Bay in the August 2016 local elections.), all calculations show it is likely to remain to win the next national election in 2019.

The two leaders who are likely to now race for the party presidency are of the finest ANC mettle.

The two leaders who are likely to now race for the party presidency are of the finest ANC mettle.

Ramaphosa was chairperson of the party's constitutional assembly, which wrote the Constitution. He was also deputy chairperson of the national planning commission, which conceived South Africa's governing blueprint, the national development plan. He came to prominence as a leader of the National Union of Mineworkers and when he left politics, he was a prominent and very wealthy South African business leader.

Dlamini-Zuma is a medical doctor and was South Africa's first democratic minister of health where she conceived the programme of free health for poor South Africans, all women and children under six years old. She was minister of home affairs where she began the programme of modernising this crucial civic department; and she also served as foreign minister. She quit that post when she ran a tough race to become AU commission chairperson.

Both leading ANC presidential candidates enjoy good reputations. Ramaphosa's is, however, hurt by the fact that he was a Lonmin boss when the Marikana massacre of workers and killings of security guards occurred. Dlamini-Zuma was embroiled in one of South Africa's first scandals when she gave millions to the flop stage production of Sarafina and also threw public money behind a quack Aids remedy called Virodene.

Some say Dlamini-Zuma who carries her ex-husband, Jacob Zuma's surname, may be tainted by his peccadillos. But the two were divorced in 1998 and she enjoys an independent reputation and history in the struggle for South Africa's liberation.

An endorsement by the Women's League for Dlamini-Zuma is a politically powerful moment but it does not mean she is a shoo-in. The women's league has a small number of votes at an elective conference, but the league is influential.

An endorsement by the Women's League for Dlamini-Zuma is a politically powerful moment but it does not mean she is a shoo-in.

Ramaphosa has the support of the organised working class as several trade unions endorsed his leadership late in 2016.

It is all systems go for a race as important as that between Thabo Mbeki and Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed Nelson Mandela. There is added spice in ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe's revelation that there are an additional six leaders who would like to be ANC president too.