06 Dec

Why South Africa’s Leadership Race Is Wide Open

The race to lead South Africa’s ruling African National Congress is in overdrive. While current nomination tallies from the ANC’s branches indicate that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has the edge ahead of the party’s national elective conference that starts Dec. 16, its voting structure and procedures mean his main rival Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma could still win. The victor is likely to become the country’s next president.

1. What’s at stake?

The ANC holds a national conference every five years to pick its top leadership. Because the ANC has held power in South Africa since apartheid ended in 1994, the winning candidates typically go on to top positions in the government. Jacob Zuma, the nation’s current president, won control of the ANC from Thabo Mbeki in December 2007 and took office in May 2009.

2. Why isn’t Zuma running again?

While the ANC’s rules don’t explicitly ban Zuma from running for a third term, they specify that the party’s leader must be its presidential candidate in national elections. The constitution limits the nation’s president to serving a maximum of two five-year terms, and Zuma’s time will be up in 2019. The party will probably be loath to bend the rules to keep Zuma on — his immersion in a succession of scandals has eroded its support and cost the ANC control of Johannesburg, the economic hub, and Pretoria, the capital, in last year’s municipal elections.

3. Who decides the ANC’s leadership race?

The 5,240 voting delegates who will attend the conference.The ANC’s branches will be represented 4,731 delegates. The incumbent leadership structures in the nine provinces will send 27 delegates each, the party’s national executive committee has 86 delegates and three leagues representing the youth, women and veterans have 60 delegates each. While the party has previously elected a president, deputy president, secretary-general, deputy secretary-general, chairperson, treasurer-general, it is considering proposals to enlarge its leadership structure, which would enable it to accommodate more members of competing factions.

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