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ANC leader-elect, Cyril Ramaphosa ANC leader-elect, Cyril Ramaphosa   (AFP or licensors)

South Africa ruling party's election exposes divisions

South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) has selected Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed President Jacob Zuma as the party's leader. Jesuit father Russell Pollitt, Head of the Jesuit Institute in Johannesburg looks ahead to how he expects events to unfold and reflects on the significance of this vote for the nation.

By John Waters

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as the leader of South Africa’s ruling political party, the African National Congress (ANC), has exposed deep divisions within the party. That’s the opinion of the head of the Jesuit Institute South Africa, Fr Russel Pollitt, SJ.

Ramaphosa was elected as the leader of the ANC on December 18th. At the time of the election he was serving as deputy President of South Africa. If his party is re-elected in the country’s upcoming General election, Ramaphosa will succeed Jacob Zuma and become President of South Africa. Zuma is still under investigation for charges of alleged corruption

Speaking to Linda Bordoni News, Fr Pollitt gave his assessment of the ANC election result. He outlined the internal party politics taking place, explaining how he sees the party as being divided into factions.

Listen to the interview

Shrewd game

 “I think what’s happened is that the pro-Zuma faction of the ANC has played a very shrewd game,” he said.

“What they’ve done, he explained, is to try and include both factions, so there are three people in the top six who are well known supporters of Zuma’s, and three others who would be supporters of Ramaphosa. In a sense, Zuma’s shrewdness means that anything Ramaphosa wants to do, it’s going to be much more difficult to do it.”

Factions within the ANC 

Fr Pollitt went on to detail how, due to the factions within the party, the new party president could find it very difficult to unite the party in time for the General election. He was also doubtful that Jacob Zuma could be removed from the Presidency of the country, ahead of the election. This, said Fr Pollitt, was something that many South Africans were hoping for.

Investors attracted by Ramaphosa

Whilst Fr Pollitt is optimistic that the new president of the ANC can attract for investment and boost South Africa’s struggling economy, he has less hope in the chances of the ANC distancing itself from Zuma and the corruption allegations associated with him. Despite this, he predicts that the ANC will still be in power after 2019.

Risk of voter apathy

“It is most likely that the ANC will still get back into power, though they will be a very weakened ANC, they won’t have the majority that they’ve got at the moment. Once of the main problems in South Africa is that you very rarely have a viable opposition. I think many people thought that after this leadership conference, the ANC would have a restored leadership which would lead the party into a majority again and a win in 2019.  But seems that many people are going to lose confidence now and maybe many South Africans  won’t go to the polls because they don’t see a viable opposition”. 

19 December 2017, 16:18