18/12/2017 18:32 SAST | Updated 18/12/2017 19:51 SAST

5 Issues The ANC's New President Must Address - Immediately

There is the question of state president Jacob Zuma, who is at the centre of corruption and state capture allegations.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Deputy president of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa greets an ANC member during the 54th National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

New ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has his work cut out as the head of a party facing dwindling public support while battling scourges of corruption, infighting, patronage and factionalism.

Then there is the question of state president Jacob Zuma, who is at the centre of corruption and state capture allegations.

With about a year-and-a-half to go until South Africans go to the polls, Ramaphosa will have to somehow spearhead a quick turnaround for the ANC to recover its public image. Here are five questions Ramaphosa will have to address as soon as possible:

1. What will happen to Zuma?

The ANC suffered a rude awakening in 2016 when it lost four metros in the local government elections -- the party's support dwindling to a mere 54 percent. That means 281,000 ANC voters ended up voting for someone else and 3 million chose not to vote at all.

There's no data that prove Zuma is solely to blame -- there are other issues such as service delivery, lack of confidence, poverty, and the list goes on -- but it can be argued that his decisions play a big part in deteriorating public confidence in the ANC.

2. How will they change the economy?

S&P Global Ratings last month downgraded South Africa's local currency debt to "junk" status, citing a further deterioration in the country's economic outlook and public finances. The move sent the rand tumbling.

Recent statistics also revealed that more than half of the country's citizens of working age are unemployed and more than half the population is living in poverty.

3. What will happen to the losing candidate?

The ANC was split between its now president Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. It was a winner-takes-all race, the loser will now probably be relegated to the ANC's back benches in Parliament or cast out top structures as an ordinary member.

But factions don't simply disappear. The work will now begin to bring the losing faction into harmony with those victorious. This will be essential to ensuring internal political stability in the run-up to 2019.

4. What will happen to Zuma's Cabinet?

Zuma has used a system of patronage to appoint key allies into important Cabinets in order to further his agenda. David Mahlobo was appointed as head of the State Security Agency in charge of intelligence before he was moved the energy portfolio to push Zuma's nuclear deal. Malusi Gigaba was propped up to be the minister of finance, effectively solving Zuma's woes with Sars and the Treasury.

Many other ministers have been criticised for sloppy management of their portfolios, their appointments pushed through because of their alliance to Number One. Ramaphosa will have to quickly make changes if Zuma's legacy is to be halted.

5. What does Ramaphosa's appointment mean for 2019?

In the run-up to the elections, local analysts predicted that a Ramaphosa win may bode well for the ANC. His anti-corruption stance and business background they said has the potential to restore investor confidence and build the economy. Dlamini-Zuma, analysts said, is feared to be a candidate who will continue her ex-husband's agenda or protect him from criminal investigation. In her campaign, the surrounded herself with his staunchest of supporters.

Now that Ramaphosa has taken the throne:

He will have to make good on his promises of economic recovery and battle through to resolve the public perception that he is the mastermind behind the Marikana Massacre of 2012 which saw 34 miners killed.