Analysts believe it is likely that President Jacob Zuma will be easily re-elected at the ruling party’s upcoming elective conference in Mangaung, but a possible upset for the post of deputy president would not necessarily end the current “wishy-washy” economic policy positions of the ANC.
Political economist Steven Friedman said he was not convinced that billionaire businessman Cyril Ramaphosa would leave Shanduka and McDonald’s and take up the political reins of deputy president of the ANC. If, however, he did choose to do so, it would not lead to fundamental changes in economic policy.
KwaZulu-Natal branches of the ANC selected Ramaphosa as their favourite for deputy president of the party over the past weekend.
They represent the biggest block of the ruling party’s delegates to Mangaung.
If Ramaphosa – the country’s richest black African after Patrice Motsepe, according to the Sunday Times – is elected to the post, it would put him in line to replace Zuma in 2019.
Ramaphosa’s selection by branches in Zuma’s heartland province is seen as a snub to Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who recently supported the call for a parliamentary debate and a vote of no confidence in the president.
The vote and debate were sought by eight opposition political parties but turned down by the ANC parliamentary caucus. Motlanthe backed the debate in his capacity as leader of government business.
As the candidate selection process hots up, Friedman said the ANC must be concerned that the infighting within branches and structures would do political damage.
In order to minimise this fallout, a likely outcome would be that a slate of candidates, including Motlanthe as deputy and Zuma as president, would be presented to the conference for unopposed selection.
This would prevent upsetting the apple cart.
Mike Schussler, the director of economists.co.za, said ANC economic policy positions had been “wishy-washy” for some time. “South Africans spend more time in Cuba looking for investment than they do at home,” he said.
As ANC deputy president, Ramaphosa would draw a lot of support from business, particularly white business. “South Africa is in need of economic confidence… it has a lot to do with political leadership,” Schussler said.
He believed that there would be a “confidence dividend”.
Ramaphosa would underpin the reputations of Planning Minister Trevor Manuel and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
However, Efficient Group chief economist Dawie Roodt said, while there were “clear benefits [to] having someone like [Ramaphosa] as he is an experienced businessman”, he did not believe Ramaphosa would have much of an impact on the ANC’s policies.
There would probably be efficiency improvements by government departments and better governance, “but I am not so sure there would be a change in the things that are done [by the government]”.
It was unlikely that Ramaphosa would, for example, stop the drift towards greater state involvement in the economy, including mining. He would probably also be able to do little to resolve the impasse over a youth wage subsidy.
“There will just be a continuation of what we have seen,” Roodt maintained.
Manufacturing Circle executive director Coenraad Bezuidenhout, whose organisation will table policy positions ahead of Mangaung to influence industrial policy, in particular, said it was hard to say how either Motlanthe or Ramaphosa would influence the government.
“Ramaphosa is respected more in business circles but Motlanthe is respected in policy circles,” Bezuidenhout said.
Ramaphosa would not yet say whether he would stand for office at next month’s party elections, his spokesman, Steyn Speed, told Bloomberg.
Nicholas Maweni, the Black Management Forum managing director, said his organisation had made a “clear decision on such issues” of not involving itself in political matters.
“We are a professional organisation. We don’t want to get involved in the politics of the ruling party. Our members come from various organisations.”
Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa (born November 17, 1952) is a lawyer, union leader, politician and businessman. His Shanduka Group owns a stake in mines operated by Lonmin, a venture with Glencore International, and the McDonald’s South Africa franchise. He is the chairman of MTN and Bidvest and sits on the board of SABMiller and Standard Bank.