File picture: Sizwe Ndingane

Johannesburg - The current leadership crisis affecting the ruling African National Congress is problematic for South Africa in the short-term, but positive in the long run.

This is according to Piers Pigou, the International Crisis Group’s Senior Consultant for Southern Africa, who told the African News Agency (ANA): "In the short term the uncertainty generated by the impasse around (Jacob) Zuma's exit is having some negative repercussions. Overall though, his exit is inevitable and sentiment on several fronts is generally positive in response to this."

When asked if he thought Zuma should respect the wishes of the ANC for him to step down in an endeavour to avoid further fracturing of the ruling party, Pigou said it would be better for the president to listen to the growing number of his party comrades - now the majority - who are urging him to take this course of action.

"His apparent intransigence is generating unnecessary friction. The fissures in the party had widened in some quarters as a result," said the analyst for the crisis group which is an independent organisation working to prevent wars and shape policies that will build a more peaceful world.

In regard to the politically-related violence that broke out in the streets of Johannesburg on Monday between ANC members and members of other groupings, Pigou was asked if he feared more violence if the issue was not resolved.

"Zuma's departure will have negative consequences for a number of those who have benefited from his patronage and favours," said Pigou.

"At some levels of the party, the retention of these interests is now a desperate affair.  Violence is a tactic some may well try to employ, but the tide has turned and I can't see this kind of behaviour generating any traction or deepening significantly as the momentum swings against the president's support base.

"Reactionary elements engaged in such tactics are a minority that should be exposed, isolated and held accountable," he added.

"The ANC will be keen to be seen doing that. Having said that, (Cyril) Ramaphosa will also be keen to avoid exacerbating these tensions and will look to extend an olive branch to those who are now feeling vulnerable. Rebuilding unity had been his ANC presidential mantra."

Although Zuma's term is only due to end in 2019, international response to the election of Ramaphosa as ANC leader has been very positive, including new interest in investment and a strengthening Rand currency.

In this light Pigou was asked if the thought this new investor confidence in South Africa was justified. "This strengthening will continue in the short term if Zuma goes. Ramaphosa is likely to take over as he is the deputy state president and steer both government and party ahead of the 2019 elections that are likely to be held in about 15 months," he said.

"However, there is a possibility of an interim president if Ramaphosa finalising Zuma's term jeopardises him standing for two full terms.

"Speculation that Zuma would fire Ramaphosa and appoint an alternate intended to maximise his political insulation in a context of pending criminal charges has been dismissed as mischievous fake news by senior ANC leaders," Pigou told ANA.

African News Agency/ANA