POLITICS
09/09/2017 07:17 SAST | Updated 09/09/2017 07:17 SAST

No Lethal Blow To Ramaphosa's Campaign Over Sex Scandal, Yet

“The manner in which he handles it will matter more than what actually comes out."

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Analysis

It does not seem like allegations of extramarital affairs have fazed Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa's presidential campaign. At least not yet...

But that could change depending on how Ramaphosa manages and responds to the allegations, as well as whether more scandals surface.

Ramaphosa has made public appearances twice since the Sunday Independent published an article last weekend alleging the presidential frontrunner was involved in multiple sexual affairs outside his marriage.

The newspaper made reference to leaked emails from the deputy president's personal email accounts, which suggested Ramaphosa had relationships with a number of women, some of whom included students.

Once it was published, Ramaphosa said he and his wife had been financially assisting 54 students, both men and women, some of whom were mentioned in the emails.

He admitted to having had an affair with his doctor eight years ago, but maintained he had resolved this with his wife. He also claimed the leak was the result of a smear campaign against him, and that state intelligence members were being used to facilitate this.

He promised to respond
When Ramaphosa headed to Parliament to answer questions on Wednesday, he began by making an announcement, saying he believed that he had to hold himself accountable and that he would offer a detailed response "in a day or two".

There was a sense of nervousness then. He answered questions to the point and hadn't offered even a smile for at least half an hour into the session. It was only after that brief period when his characteristic charisma returned.

On Friday, while addressing the National Economic Development and Labour Council annual summit, Ramaphosa was back to his usual self. He spoke confidently against state capture, corruption and wasteful expenditure among South African state-owned enterprises.

But he did not offer the explanation that he promised in Parliament days before.

What the experts say
Politics professor Keith Gottschalk compared the scandal to the 783 charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering levelled against President Jacob Zuma when he came into office.

"A decade ago, there were more serious allegations levelled against Zuma and it had no effect on him. With Ramaphosa, it may result in a little reputational damage in the public, but it may not have any impact on the ANC's branches," Gottschalk said.

"How Ramaphosa responds is important. For example, his wife has come out in his support."

Gottschalk said he did not believe Zuma himself was behind what Ramaphosa claims is a smear campaign, but instead rival cliques in the party may be to blame.

"I think [Ramaphosa] will continue campaigning as he already has," he said.

Wits University's Daryl Glaser said the damage on Ramaphosa's campaign will depend on what more will come out in the future.

Sunday Independent editor Steve Motale, in an opinion piece this week, threatened Ramaphosa, saying the publication was in possession of more information and that more women have come forward with similar allegations since the story was published.

"This has not yet dealt a lethal blow on Ramaphosa's campaign. It actually may have won him some admiration or sympathy in some sectors of society," Glaser said.

"The manner in which he handles it will matter more than what actually comes out. This is the nature of the very dirty game of politics."