With teary eyes and a beaming expression after learning he was the new ANC president, Cyril Ramaphosa and his supporters sighed relief knowing their victory had probably saved the party they so dearly loved from a continuation of the Zuma dynasty that had brought the ANC into such disrepute over the past ten years.
But while it was a time worth celebration and unity, no one could erase the thoughts at the back of their mind of the daunting tasks that lay ahead for the new President.
Ramaphosa, who campaigned on a heavy anti-corruption and anti-state capture platform will now have to implement decisions with the intention of saving his party from further declining support among the electorate.
Although the Deputy President of the Republic is not the President of the Republic, his position as head of the ruling party still positions him with great power and influence of governing the country.
These are just some of the many actions the ANC president will be expected to make in the next few weeks.
- Validate his authority among the ANC NEC
What will be crucial for Ramaphosa especially considering that half of his Top 6 were on his opponent’s slate, would be to reiterate his authority and convey a message of a strong and decisive leader.
His Deputy and Secretary-General, David Mabuza and Ace Magashule respectively, were instrumental in Jacob Zuma’s assumption to the party presidency in 2007 and 2012. Premiers of Mpumalanga and Free State, two of three key provinces who have historically swung previous ANC national conferences are also known to be closely aligned to Zuma.
Ramaphosa’s key task would be to ensure Magashule and Mabuza understand that the party is now under his leadership and their loyalty is needed to restore the party to the dignity it once enjoyed. Their relationship to Zuma cannot override any other responsibilities they now adopt within their new portfolios.
- Consolidate the Tripartite Alliance
Election after election since 1994 the ANC have enjoyed a monumental majority courtesy of their binding relationship with COSATU and the SACP. The relationship otherwise known as the Tripartite Alliance has coalesced massive support for the ruling party.
However, in the waning years of the Zuma presidency, the Alliance has suffered volatile relations due to corruption and state capture. For the first time, the SACP challenged the ANC during by-elections in a Free State municipality earlier this month. In May this year, COSATU banned Zuma from addressing them at their May Day rally. Not to mention key COSATU and other trade union leaders who have been publicly vocal of their distrust of the president.
For the sake of the ANC’s chances to retain their majority come 2019, Ramaphosa will need to reestablish a working and functional relationship with the Alliance members. The ANC desperately need to retain their support for the elections amid declining support and in the wake of humiliating losses during the 2016 local government elections.
- Institute the long-awaited state capture inquiry
While Ramaphosa might not necessarily have the legal power to establish the inquiry as recommended by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, his power as ANC President could still be influential in forcing President Zuma expedite the orders of the Public Protector’s report by allowing the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court to appoint a judge to head the commission.
If Ramaphosa is successful in this endeavour, it would also help reinforce his authority and convey a message to the public that he is now essentially in control of the lame duck Zuma.
- Boost investor confidence
He might not be President of the Republic, but he remains the Deputy President with a chance to become President in 2019 or even before, if Zuma resigns or is recalled.
Nevertheless, using his position as Deputy President still enables him to engage with the local and international business community and discuss his plans to improve the economy with his ‘New Deal’. Furthermore, as head of the ANC, there is nothing that prohibits him from campaigning as the country heads towards the 2019 general with a strong focus on his economic message.
- Appoint a new NPA head
Earlier this month the Gauteng High Court ruled that the termination of former prosecutions boss Mxolisi Nxasana was unconstitutional and the incumbent NDPP Shaun Abrahams must vacate his position. The bench further ruled that Ramaphosa must appoint a new NDPP within two months as Zuma is not fit to take such a decision due to his conflict of interest in the NPA.
What will be crucial of this decision is that whoever is appointed to the position will be tasked with leading the corruption charges relating to the 1990s arms deal against Jacob Zuma. This will be a true test of leadership for Ramaphosa as many expect him to purge those in power who perpetuated state capture and corruption, including the sitting President.
- Confront the JZ problem
Many have the expectation that Ramaphosa will now lead the mission to remove Jacob Zuma from the Union Buildings before his term expires in 2019. The party President will need to decide whether he encourages Zuma to resign or institute a recall of the country’s President – similar to that of Mbeki in 2008.
However, unlike Mbeki, Zuma might disregard such a recall as the party itself has no legal mandate to recall a President – only Parliament can remove a sitting president – through impeachment or a motion of confidence.
Ramaphosa might need to conduct some lobbying within the ANC parliamentary caucus to execute the less extreme of the two measures through a motion of confidence which will be easily endorsed by the opposition.
It is a tough journey that lays ahead for the new ANC president, with many having high expectations that he will deliver on his promises of eradicating the corruption that has engulfed the country under the Zuma administration.
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