30 Jan

The Clock Is Ticking on the Zuma Era in South Africa

The clock is ticking on South African President Jacob Zuma’s scandal-ridden administration as his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, flexes his political muscles and shows he’s increasingly wielding state power to stamp out corruption and revive the economy.

While the ruling African National Congress’s top leadership has decided that Zuma, 75, must leave office — to win back voters and stoke investor confidence in the stagnant economy — without setting a deadline, newly elected party leader Ramaphosa and his supporters have moved decisively on two other fronts.

His office and the Ministry of Public Enterprises announced sweeping changes to the board and management of struggling state-power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. As well as deciding on Friday that Zuma must step down, the ANC National Executive Committee suspended the party’s pro-Zuma provincial executive committees in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Free State that the courts said weren’t properly elected.

“It is as if Cyril is confirming that he has taken over the reins,” said Susan Booysen, a political science professor at the University of Witwatersrand’s School of Governance. “I would say Zuma will be gone in anything between 10 and 30 days maximum.”

Zuma’s exit would catapult Ramaphosa, 65, into the presidency and allow him to begin to repair an economy that suffered its second recession in almost a decade in 2017 and has struggled to mount a strong recovery. He’s also vowed to fight the graft that has marred Zuma’s administration.

An open question remains whether Zuma will step aside before Feb. 8 so that Ramaphosa can deliver the annual state-of-the-nation address. Zuma’s diary, released by the Presidency on Monday, shows he is still scheduled to present the speech and respond to a debate a week later.

Zuma announced on Sunday that Water Minister Nomvula Mokonyane will represent him at the inauguration of Liberian President George Weah. Ramaphosa is leading South Africa’s delegation to the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos this week.

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