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Acting decisively on power cuts and state companies would be first sign that the President now envisages radical changes
It was not the landslide that his supporters had predicted but enough to secure Cyril Ramaphosa a second term as leader of the African National Congress, setting him up as the party's flagbearer in national elections in 2024. Ramaphosa won 2,476 votes against 1,897 votes for former health minister Zweli Mkhize at the party's national elective conference which wound up on 20 December (AC Vol 63 No 25, President's fate rests with party).
Along with his personal victory, Ramaphosa now has more allies in the top hierarchy of the ANC and stronger support on its key policy making body, the National Executive Committee, with over 60% of its member openly backing him.
Of the top seven positions at the party's apex, Ramaphosa has four key allies:
Gwede Mantashe (Chairman) has been in the party's leadership alliance as chairman of the SA Communist Party and as Secretary General of the ANC since 2007. Mantashe, whose ties with Ramaphosa go back to their joint leadership of the Mineworkers Union in the 1980s, held the energy ministry and has been fiercely protective of mineworkers' jobs. On other matters – such as the management of the Eskom power utility – he and Ramaphosa have differed openly. It will be a delicate relationship in Ramaphosa's second term: he owes Mantashe hugely for his electoral success in two conferences yet he will have to radically change energy policy, perhaps override the minister, to end the current Eskom impasse.
Gwen Ramokgopa (Treasurer General), former health commissioner in Gauteng Province and the then deputy national Health Minister, she is a Ramaphosa ally on the way up.
Fikile Mbalula (Secretary General) former leader of the ANC Youth League and then Transport Minister, he has been a surprising but faithful ally to Ramaphosa and now occupies the key management position in the party as it tries to reform itself and boost its electoral performance.
Maropene Ramokgopa (Second Deputy Secretary General) high flying diplomat serving in India and then as Ramaphosa's advisor on international relations, she is also an accomplished operator within the party.
Ramaphosa's chief foe in the top seven:
Nomvula Mokonyane, a former premier of Gauteng and national minister of communications, environment and water in succession, she is widely experienced (AC Vol 63 No 22, Ramaphosa names his party allies).
But the baggage that haunts her starts with claims that she issued state contracts to her boyfriend's company and she was also named in the State Capture report as having secured a corrupt retainer as minister. She denies all wrongdoing and refuses to step aside. Her position will remain tenuous, at least initially.
Ramaphosa's biggest challenge :
Paul Mashatile (Deputy President) is the man to watch should Ramaphosa stumble again (AC Vol 63 No 24, A December surprise threatens Ramaphosa's second term). An astute politician, who honed his organisational skills in Alexandra Township and then as Gauteng Premier, Mashatile is tough and tactical. Ahead of the ANC's elective conference, insiders were speculating that Mashatile had joined Mkhize's camp to gang up against Ramaphosa: in the end he stayed independent and came through the middle. Now he is in pole position for the presidential succession but the big question is whether he can build the national support to take over from Ramaphosa – either before or after the next national elections.
Beyond the political shuffling, South Africans want to see an urgent response to the deepening electric power crisis, which is inextricably bound up with politics and vested interests in the ANC.
After the elections, Ramaphosa has no excuses to backpedal on reform or to avoid radical fixes for the Eskom failures. It is a main cause of slow economic growth and investment and chronic levels of unemployment.
Electricity will be the first test of the new Ramaphosa order.
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