After Zuma: Why Ramaphosa May Wait To Become President

It might be a bad political move for African National Congress (ANC) president Cyril Ramaphosa to immediately take over as interim president if Jacob Zuma steps down as president of South Africa, according to Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) political researcher Tasneem Essop.

National Assembly Speaker and member of the top six of the ruling ANC Baleka Mbete sent the country into a tizz on Tuesday when she announced that the State of the Nation Address (SONA) to be delivered by Zuma on Thursday, was postponed. This announcement came amid heavy speculation that Zuma is about to step down.

No new date for the 2018 SONA has been announced yet.

In a Facebook live interview with The Daily Vox, Essop said it would be a better political move for Ramaphosa to elect an interim ‘caretaker’ president should Zuma step down.

“If Ramaphosa takes over as state president, that might be a bad political move. It would serve both purposes if he were to put in a caretaker president that symbolically speaks to unity in the ANC, that is perhaps a woman because that’s been an important critique of the current leadership of the ANC that it’s very male-dominated, that is still very supportive of Ramaphosa and his agenda. [The caretaker president should be] symbolic of that unity and hits back at some of the criticisms [of Ramaphosa]. This will allow [Ramaphosa] to focus on the ANC’s election campaign, he gets to focus on winning back places like Gauteng. This is important politically because he gets a clean break when he goes in as state president after the 2019 elections,” she said.

However Essop said that there are indications from both members of the party national executive committee and leaders of the ANC that Ramaphosa will take over as president.

The ANC is characterised by deep factions divided by their support of newly elected president of the party Cyril Ramaphosa or president of the country Jacob Zuma. Essop said factions are a common in politics.

“In politics in 2018, having an ANC that is fully behind you is a really difficult thing. It was always going to be the case that there’s going to be factions and splinters. It’s really about how one manages the factions and splinters and I think there are lessons to be learnt from the Zuma tenure of the ANC. This is really a question about how you manage power within the ANC,” she said.

“Ramaphosa’s leadership style will dictate a lot of that – how does he bring together those who are against him? And then how does he maintain both managing the factions in the ANC and bringing the unity that they have been speaking about in the ANC?”

Asides from managing the party and the possible removal of Zuma, Ramaphosa also has to campaign for the national elections set to take place in 2019.

Essop also said Ramaphosa needs to take decisive action in his removal of Zuma especially because he campaigned strongly against corruption – and South African associate corruption with the president.

She said: “Zuma is symbolic for the kind of corruption that we’ve seen over the past years. Corruption in the country and in the ANC certainly didn’t start with Zuma and it won’t end with him. Ramaphosa made a very public campaign on the ticket of anti-corruption and on the ticket of being strong on anti-corruption. If he is dealing with this in a delicate way, what does this say to the public around how his administration will deal with corruption at a deeper level?”

Watch the full interview below.

Featured image by Mihlali Ntsabo