ANC has Ramaphosa to thank for minimising losses in South Africa

Time will tell if the president secured big enough victory to quell the factionalism in the ANC

Many people believe that the African National Congress's electoral victory in South Africa will be the final chance it gets from voters to steer the country on to a sustainable path to growth and prosperity.

Only two years ago, when the ANC was led by the corruption-tainted Jacob Zuma, it appeared like the sun would set on its 25-year parliament majority at the next time of asking, such was the public's disillusionment with the party and its governance performance.

In the 2016 local elections the ANC’s support dipped to 54 per cent of the vote, as Zuma’s second term in office coincided with rising unemployment, economic recession, as well as widespread public and private sector corruption.

However, when Cyril Ramaphosa succeeded Zuma in December 2017, voters' views of the ANC began to improve. Indeed, most analysts believe the party would have lost its majority on Wednesday if the popular trade-unionist-turned-businessman was not at its helm.


Public’s trust

After his election as ANC president, Ramaphosa set about trying to rebuild the public’s trust in the party, promising that under his leadership the corruption that took root in government and the movement would be tackled head-on.

After casting his vote in the country's sixth national election in Johannesburg, Ramaphosa publicly acknowledged the "rampant corruption" of recent years, saying it got in the way of delivering a better life for ordinary people.

“We have made mistakes, but we are sorry about those mistakes and we are asking our people to reinvest their confidence in us,” he said.

By early Friday evening, with the vote count nearly concluded, Ramaphosa had the answer to his plea: the ANC had won a reduced majority, having won 57 per cent of the parliamentary ballots from the almost 15 million voters who made their mark, compared with 62.15 per cent in 2014.

It seems that despite the ANC’s many recent failings, enough South Africans believe Ramaphosa can lead the country into a better, less corrupt future.

But has he secured a big enough victory in this poll to quell the factionalism in the ANC that has undermined the movement’s unity and purpose for over a decade?

Pivotal issue

Richard Calland, an associate professor in public law at the University of Cape Town, believes this is the pivotal issue after the election. He says the result the ANC secured from Wednesday's vote arguably represents the ideal outcome for the country.

“The people have reprimanded the party for its reprehensible conduct and, as many of its leaders were conceding yesterday, its failures to deliver good public services. At the same time, it gives Ramaphosa the opportunity to claim a victory and, thereby, the fresh mandate he needs,” he wrote on Friday in The Conversation, an online media outlet for academics.

Institute of Race Relations political analyst Jackkie Cilliers told The Irish Times the first real opportunity the public will get to assess Rampahosa's intentions, and whether he has a strong enough hold over the party to keep his promises, will be when he appoints his new cabinet from the ANC's controversial candidates list.

Prior to the election the list caused uproar among the public, as up to 33 of the people put forward to represent the party in national and provincial government stand accused of – but not charged with – crimes ranging from corruption to rape.

Controversial figures

“Politics is the art of the possible so Ramaphosa is somewhat constrained by the divisions that exist in the ANC,” Cilliers said, adding: “I think we will see a few controversial figures making it into his cabinet because he needs their support, but many will not.”

The new president’s inauguration will take place on May 25th next and Ramaphosa will announce his cabinet shortly after that.

So South Africans will have to wait for a few more weeks to get an idea of how Rampahosa’s fight against corruption in the ANC will progress.