South Africa’s president, who enjoys official backing from the ruling party despite a scandal, seemed determined to remain in office at the African National Congress (ANC) party’s conference, which is supposed to choose its president who will also be the country’s next president.
Cyril Ramaphosa, 70, has a good chance of winning a second term. He is the most likely candidate to remain at the head of the African National Congress, which has chosen the presidents of South Africa since the introduction of democracy in the country 28 years ago.
He succeeded in passing the message clearly in a long speech he delivered on Friday at the opening of the conference, in which he talked about the challenges that must be faced, as well as the successes achieved by his first term, stressing the importance of continuity.
But he admitted that his countrymen “expect us to have the courage and honesty to admit our defects and to correct them.”
Thirty years after the end of apartheid, the country suffers from high unemployment and crime rates, growing poverty and inequality, and record blackouts as the energy crisis worsens.
About 4,500 ANC representatives from the country’s nine provinces are supposed to take part in a convention center in a suburb of Johannesburg, in a crucial vote in preparation for the 2024 general elections.
The conference, which is supposed to last five days, has been delayed so far. “The vote will take place today, unless otherwise happens,” party spokesman Amos Fago told AFP on Saturday morning.
The only competitor to Ramaphosa is the former Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize (66 years), who is ahead of the current president by a wide margin.
– no alternative –
Ramaphosa faces this crucial juncture for his political future after surviving impeachment proceedings.
The head of state, who is also a wealthy businessman, is accused of attempting to conceal the theft of bundles of dollars in 2020 that were hidden under sofa cushions in his luxurious farm in Fala Fala (northeast). An investigation is underway in the case, but no charges have been filed against him yet.
The African National Congress, which constitutes a majority in parliament, thwarted a threat of his forced departure after calling on its deputies to “follow the line” of the party and reject the measure.
The party, which has been in decline in elections for ten years without having an acceptable alternative, boosted Cyril Ramaphosa’s chances of retaining power.
Despite the scandal, Ramaphosa remains popular. For the party, whose approval rating fell below 50 percent for the first time in last year’s local elections, it represents its best gain for 2024.
Dozens of delegates, most of them supporters of former President Jacob Zuma (2009-2018), chanted slogans calling for change during his speech as they banged on their tables. “Let us demonstrate discipline and political conscience,” Ramaphosa said, addressing them.
Cameras later captured Ramaphosa laughing and shaking hands with his predecessor and political opponent Zuma.
But even the president’s fiercest critics admit: “Ramapuza will win, we know it,” said Thami Chamani, 30, a KwaZulu-Natal provincial delegate. He added, “But because of the scandal, Vala Vala, he must withdraw,” stressing that he will vote, albeit symbolically, for the president’s rival.