21/10/2017 11:43 SAST | Updated 21/10/2017 11:44 SAST

Will Ramaphosa Be Fired? It Just Doesn't Seem To Make Sense

“Ramaphosa’s campaign is already at a very advanced stage. Whether he is deputy president of the country or not will make little difference now."

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Jacob Zuma.
Mike Hutchings / Reuters
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Jacob Zuma.

Although President Jacob Zuma's thought process is sometimes difficult to predict, axing his deputy defies political reasonableness and may be counterproductive to his campaign to have Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma take over the reins.

And the after-effects of such a decision may be catastrophic for South Africa's already dwindling political stability -- analysts say it may lead to yet another blow to the economy, something that the governing party cannot afford two years ahead of the national elections in 2019.

In an interview with eNCA, James Motlatsi, Ramaphosa's close confidant, claimed Zuma intended on using an "intelligence report" to justify Ramaphosa's removal from government -- the same tactic that was used to remove former finance minister and Zuma critic, Pravin Gordhan.

And in Parliament this week, confronted with the question of whether Zuma intended to fire him as the nation's deputy president, Ramaphosa did not say yes or no. Instead, he said he would accept the decision as it is the president's prerogative to do so.

"I must tell you that when I was appointed as deputy president, I accepted the appointment because it is the president's prerogative to appoint or to remove anybody on the executive... and if the decision is to remove me, I will accept that as a decision that will be taken by the president," Ramaphosa said.

But on Friday, Zuma's spokesperson, Bongani Ngqulunga, said there was no basis for the claims.

"It's rumours and gossip and we don't comment on them at all," he said in an interview with Reuters.

But Zuma is unpredictable -- a trait clearly shown by his most recent midday Cabinet reshuffle that saw SA Communist Party boss Blade Nzimande being severed from the executive.

Politics professor at Unisa, Dirk Kotze, said even if Zuma were to axe Ramaphosa, it would have no major impact on the presidential frontrunner's campaign less than two months before the ANC goes to its national conference in December.

"Ramaphosa's campaign is already at a very advanced stage. Whether he is deputy president of the country or not will make little difference now. If he is axed as deputy president of South Africa, he will still remain as deputy president of the ANC," Kotze said.

In 2005, Zuma, who was Thabo Mbeki's second-in-command at the time, was shown the door by the then president.

"For Zuma, this move solicited some sympathy within the ANC. Then he overpowered Mbeki and won the election in 2007. Judging by the past, it won't make sense for Zuma to oust Ramaphosa now. History may repeat itself," Kotze said.

"And when it comes to the [tripartite alliance], it is already broken down. Actually, if Ramaphosa is fired, the alliance will further strengthen in his favour."

Cosatu has already expressed its support for Ramaphosa as the country's next president and after Zuma gave Nzimande the boot this week, the Communists said Zuma had, through his actions, declared war on the alliance.

Economist Mike Schussler said Ramaphosa is viewed by many as a presidential candidate "suited for the economy" and the impact of firing him may be detrimental to investor confidence.

"There is uncertainty about decisions made by our leadership. Cabinet reshuffles happen everywhere in the world, but with Zuma, everything is now viewed with suspicion... it is the background to why the Cabinet reshuffles happen, not so much the reshuffle itself that matter when it comes to the economy," Schussler said.

"When it happens under suspicion, investors do not have much motivation to contribute to the economy. In an uncertain environment, foreign and local investors become jittery."

Schussler said if Ramaphosa was axed, investor confidence would take another knock.

"When you replace people in smaller portfolios, it doesn't have the same impact on the economy when you do so in portfolios like finance, energy or mineral resources. Let alone replacing the deputy president," he said.