11 Jan

South Africa’s Zuma Retains Office as Ramaphosa Bides His Time

Jacob Zuma remains South Africa’s president for the time being as the new leader of the African National Congress, Cyril Ramaphosa, plans how to bring an end to his scandal-ridden administration without unleashing a major split in the ruling party.

The ANC’s National Executive Committee didn’t discuss the option of forcing Zuma from office at a meeting Wednesday in the southern city of East London, according to three members of the panel who spoke on condition of anonymity. Earlier in the week, three of the NEC’s 86 voting members, who also asked not to be identified, said the matter would be raised.

Ramaphosa, 65, must strike a delicate balance between assuaging the concerns of Zuma supporters and meeting the desire of his own backers for the president’s quick removal. A lack of support from a clear majority in the NEC will limit his scope to convince voters before 2019 elections that he can rebuild the battered economy and clamp down on the alleged graft that’s become synonymous with the Zuma era.

“For Ramaphosa to build on the momentum of his ascendancy to ANC president and boost investor confidence, he will only have a relatively short window to remove Zuma,” said Mike Davies, the founder of political-advisory company Kigoda Consulting. “After that, the Zuma camp will be able to consolidate, and other factors will start to erode recent optimism that his election means significant change.”

Ramaphosa, the nation’s deputy president, was elected ANC leader by a narrow margin last month, warding off a challenge from Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s ex-wife and favored successor. A former labor-union activist, businessman and lead negotiator in talks to end apartheid in the 1990s, Ramaphosa may be playing a long game in his bid to remove Zuma.

He could allow Zuma to remain in office while he acts as an effective chief executive, building up support in the party by engineering a comprehensive cabinet reshuffle, while allowing legal cases to catch up with Zuma before removing him in six to nine months, according to Robert Schrire, a political science professor at the University of Cape Town.

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