By announcing Naledi Pandor as his deputy, presidential hopeful Cyril Ramaphosa is thinking ahead to the national elections in 2019, where the ANC will have to display a credible leadership structure to win back voters.
However, the decision may be detrimental to his own campaign for the number one spot come the ANC's national conference in December 2017, as Pandor does not have the backing of any significant constituencies in the party.
Political analysts say this was a very risky move on the part of the deputy president.
Ramaphosa's rationale to choose Pandor, who is currently the minister of science and technology, as his presidential running mate may form part of his bid to build a slate that has credibility, said the University of Witwatersrand's Susan Booysen.
Naledi Pandor is an excellent choice. Forget celebrities, think about good governance and delivery. She's a committed civil servant #CR17— mrsberry (@berryricegp) November 5, 2017
"Pandor ticks the box of having senior women on the slate, which is a non-negotiable part of the current narrative. She has not expressed her own serious political ambition to get to the top of the party, and she has credibility," Booysen said.
"There is also an absence of corruption in her political career and this, coupled with her non-ambition for top posts, is what the ANC needs. She is not in the position for the sake of her own political ambitions."
Nominating Pandor as deputy may have been motivated by gender considerations and perceptions that a person who is "clean of corruption, and confident" would enhance Ramaphosa's slate, said Mzukisi Qobo from the University of Johannesburg.
"The best move politically would have been to take on [the Mpumalanga premier] David Mabuza. The main consideration would be to win [the ANC presidential race in] 2017. One has to balance principle and pragmatism, and it seems Ramaphosa has veered to the side of principle," Qobo said.
Pandor would suit well as deputy president of South Africa, but not deputy president of the ANC, Qobo added.
"She does not have the temperament to fight internal party politics. She is more suited in government, but in the party, she may not do so well," he said.
Zweli Mkhize or David Mabuza.politics is about numbers.Which branch Naledi Pandor comes from?CR has lost it shame.— Brian Khumalo (PMB) (@BrianKh99376641) November 5, 2017
Pandor as deputy president may inspire confidence in the ANC come 2019, said independent political analyst Ralph Mathekga.
"She has stayed away from the factions and comes with a great deal of credibility. It represents a great winning team for 2019. But is it strategic for now? I don't think so," Mathekga said.
"I don't know what she brings in terms of ANC constituencies. I'm not aware of her relationships with, and her political power over branches. Maybe this move will inspire ANC members to look beyond factions come December. But it is a risk."
It is "interesting" that Ramaphosa's campaign managers announced a finalised slate a month before the conference, instead of keeping his cards on the table, politics expert Keith Gottschalk commented.
"It is true that Pandor does not have a huge constituency, but Ramaphosa is projecting himself as a presidential hopeful who already has 2019 in mind," Gottschalk said.