Johannesburg - Political analyst Richard Calland said on Monday that the South African ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), was facing a "strategic dilemma" and was going to have a tough time rebranding itself after it elected new leadership ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Cyril Ramaphosa was announced as the new president of the ANC on Monday evening at the party's 54th national conference in Nasrec, Johannesburg. Ramaphosa went head-to-head with former cabinet minister and African Union Chairwoman, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Other top officials include Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza who was voted in as the party's deputy president. The new national chairperson of the ANC is Gwede Mantashe. Mantashe's old post of secretary general went to Ace Magashule, the premier of the country's Free State province. Jessie Duarte retained her position as deputy secretary general while Paul Mashatile is the new ANC treasurer-general.

The election split the two factions of the ANC in half and resulted in three candidates from each slate being elected into the Top Six. 

Speaking after the announcement of the results, Calland said that the ANC's new leadership would be controlled by the "Premier League" - a term given to Free State, Mpumalanga, and North West premiers - and that Ramaphosa would spend a lot of time putting out fires within the party instead of growing it.

"It's a concern for the sensible, traditional heartland of the ANC because two such important positions within the ANC's top six are now held by the Premier League who are very much on the nationalist wing of the ANC. Being president of the ANC is an extraordinary powerful position. However, you have to work within the spirit of collective leadership," Calland said. 

"Now with the three all score draw in the top xix, [Ramaphosa] will now have to balance those competing political interests, he will have to use a lot of energy and political capital in managing them rather than taking decisive steps to give effect to the economic vision that he has been trying to set out. I think in 2019 the ANC will struggle to rebrand itself as a party of progressive centre. It will probably continue to send mixed messages over the next 18 months and make it hard to build strong unity within the organisation to present a united brand."

Calland said the Dlamini-Zuma slate was probably planning to "isolate" Ramaphosa as he take over the reigns from President Jacob Zuma, but hopefully the two candidates on his slate would assist him steer the ship in the right direction.

ANC delegates will now nominate and elect members of the party's highest-decision making structure, the national executive committee (NEC), as the five day conference continues.

African News Agency/ANA