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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 7th February 2019

Ramaphosa's big day

Blue Lines

A year into his presidency and a quarter century after the first free elections in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa has to strike a balance in his State of the Nation address to Parliament on 7 February. On the one hand he wants to assure people that the investigative commissions into grand corruption under his predecessor will result in prosecutions of senior officials in the governing African National Congress.

On the other, Ramaphosa has to contend with the supporters of ex-President Jacob Zuma, such as ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule, who have a grip on the party machinery. Not only do Zuma's acolytes issue statements calculated to undermine Ramaphosa, they have worked hard to ensure strong representation on the ANC's parliamentary list. This should guarantee a strong lobby for Zuma in the new parliament after national elections in May. The ANC is forecast to get at least 55% of the vote. Any less would weaken Ramaphosa's authority.

Also, Ramaphosa will tread carefully on his plans to restructure and unbundle Eskom, the power utility, ahead of the elections. His backers in the trade unions have already spelled out their opposition to privatisation. He will have to give assurances on jobs as his government restructures so many state companies. But most of all, people expect a coherent statement on the government's land reform and its provisions for expropriation without compensation.

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