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ANC 'faces real prospect of losing 2019 poll'

Politics
Johannesburg - A confidential survey on the country’s direction by a division of one of the big four banks has laid bare the widening schism between supporters of President Jacob Zuma and his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa.

On Thursday, the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) launched a blistering attack on RMB (Rand Merchant Bank), a division of the FirstRand Bank, owners of FNB, effectively accusing them of supporting Ramaphosa over its preferred candidate, former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

The survey, “Political views in a post-downgrade, post-Gordhan SA”, which The Star has seen, was conducted among top political analysts in the country. It concluded that there was a “meaningful probability” that the ANC would lose power in 2019. The survey says the ANC’s loss of power would be caused by a victory for Dlamini Zuma during the party’s elective conference in December, which would ensure that President Jacob Zuma stays at the Union Buildings until 2019.

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Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa's leadership abilities came under fire on Thursday. Picture: Reuters

This did not sit well with the ANCWL, which lashed out at the RMB despite the report not having been made public.

The league accused the private bank of having an interest in the ANC’s leadership succession and of tacitly supporting Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma when he steps down as ANC leader in December, and possibly become president in 2019.

The ANCWL alleged that the report portrayed the ANC “as a dying organisation that will not win 2019 elections and is expected to split should the preferred candidate of RMB not be elected as the ANC president in December 2017”.

The five political analysts polled were Prince Mashele, Steven Friedman, Anthony Butler, Ralph Mathekga and Stephen Grootes.

RMB claimed that through its Global Markets Research Team it sent the report to its clients on April 13.

However, The Star has established that the report was for the bank’s internal political risk assessment. The financial institution said it regularly published reports and the one in question reflected the views of the five analysts.

“The report reflects responses to questions put to the analysts, whose answers were expressed as probabilities. The questions asked covered key issues that have been dominating media coverage over the past two weeks,” RMB said in a statement.

It claimed the report did not reflect its views. “It has been suggested that the report claimed that the ANC was ‘a dying organisation’ and that there is an expression of a preferred candidate of RMB’. Neither statement nor any suggestions of such sentiments exist in the report,” the bank said.

But a section of the report titled RMB interpretations states: “The central scenario being painted is an adverse political environment up until, but potentially a change at, the 2019 election.” It further states that “the market may be under-pricing the probability that Zuma gets forced from office in the next few months”.

When contacted for comment last night, Mathekga stood by his assessments in the survey.

“The ANC is at a knife-edge and it is at risk of losing in 2019 if it doesn’t do anything drastic.”

He scored 50% on the possibility of the ruling party losing the elections in 2019 and 68% on the possibility that the ANC would be split after the watershed elective conference in December.

“This is based on the last elective conferences. After the elective conference (2007) where Zuma was elected, Cope was formed and in 2012 the EFF was formed. There is a trend that at every gathering every loser starts new parties.”

Mathekga said after the December conference, Ramaphosa would be the loser and Dlamini Zuma would win the race for the presidency.

Mashele gave Dlamini Zuma a 70% chance of becoming the next ANC president because “the person sponsoring her campaign, Jacob Zuma, controls the structures of the ANC”. “Zuma has control over those who run provinces. In turn, they have control over the delegates who will vote at the elective conference in December. That is why Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has already won the conference,” he said.

Earlier Thursday, speaking on Radio 702, UK politician and businessman Lord Anthony St John of Bletso said investors had expressed concerns about political developments in the country following Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle in which he fired Pravin Gordhan as finance minister. He called on Ramaphosa to be more vocal and “stand up for what is right”.

“Ramaphosa is not a good choice. He is not bold enough and not very aggressive. He doesn’t have a base in the ANC and the odds are stacked against him,” said Mathekga.

This came as the ANC’s alliance partners, the SACP and Cosatu ratcheted up their onslaught on Zuma, with the labour federation reiterating it would soon send a delegation to convince him privately to step down.

On Thursday, Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali told a provincial shop steward council meeting at the Johannesburg City Hall that leaders should know “when (their) leadership is no longer desired. Workers should not be marching for you to step down”.

He accused Zuma of having double standards on the leadership succession. “When the president wanted to be president, he didn’t remember that women can lead. But now he has to step down, he remembers that women can lead”

Speaking at the same event, SACP leader and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande suggested they had made a mistake by removing former president Thabo Mbeki in 2008, thinking they were addressing challenges within the ruling movement.

“Some of the things that were happening there (during Mbeki’s era) was the fact that there wasn’t enough consultation in the movement. Now, the same things are continuing.”

Political Bureau

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