South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa saw his lead over Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma narrow in the race for the presidency of the ruling African National Congress as the party’s branch nomination process drew toward a close.
Ramaphosa has secured decisive endorsements from the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Northern Cape, while Dlamini-Zuma was backed by an overwhelming majority in the North West and Free State, and won by a slim margin in Mpumalanga. The deputy president so far has 904 branches to 708 for Dlamini-Zuma, the former head of the African Union Commission.
The contest has divided the 105-year-old ANC like never before, with court challenges, allegations of rigging and outbreaks of violence marring the process of deciding who will attend and vote at the conference. The election has also paralyzed several government departments as officials delay decisions until they learn who the new leaders will be. The winner of the election at the conference to be held on Dec. 16-20 will be the party’s candidate in 2019, when Jacob Zuma is due to end his second term as President.
The remaining three provinces are due to announce their nominations over the next four days. Ramaphosa is likely to be endorsed by Limpopo and Gauteng, while Dlamini-Zuma has strong support in her home province of KwaZulu-Natal, which has the most ANC members.
Ninety percent of voting delegates will come from the branches, and the rest from the ANC’s leadership structures and leagues representing the youth, women and military veterans. While the branch nomination tallies are the best available indicator of who’s likely to win, they aren’t conclusive because some bigger branches are entitled to more than one delegate and there’s no guarantee members will vote as instructed.
Mpumalanga, which will send the second-most delegates to the elective conference and announced its tallies on Friday, is keeping its options open about who it will back, with almost half of its branches declining to name their candidate yet. It’s unclear how delegates from those branches will vote should no consensus be reached on who should succeed Zuma, meaning they could be a swing vote at the conference.
Dlamini-Zuma won the backing of the North West province as expected on Friday, with 291 branches endorsing her to 45 for Ramaphosa. The region is one of the provinces in a rural bloc known as the Premier League that has helped Zuma, her ex-husband, thwart challenges sparked by multiple scandals that prompted calls from within the party for him to resign.
Most investors favor Ramaphosa, 65, a lawyer, former labor union leader and one of the wealthiest black South Africans, who has pledged to revive the ailing economy, reduce a 28 percent unemployment rate and combat corruption if elected. Zuma’s preferred successor is Dlamini-Zuma, 68, who has echoed his call for “radical economic transformation” to place more of the country’s wealth in the hands of the black majority.