Cabinet picks show Ramaphosa and allies believe they’re firmly in control

Deputy President David Mabuza, right, could pose a potential threat from within the ANC to President Cyril Ramaphosa, left.

Steven Friedman, University of Johannesburg

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has selected a Cabinet which shows that he and his allies believe they are now firmly in control of the governing party and can shape the government’s agenda. What is not yet clear is whether they are right.

Ramaphosa’s choice of his cabinet was particularly important because the government in South Africa is at a crossroads.

The governing African National Congress (ANC) has been the site of a factional battle between the president’s allies and supporters of former president Jacob Zuma. Ramaphosa’s group has vowed to stop the misuse of public money and trust, of which the Zuma faction is accused. But their credibility is dented by, among other factors, the claim that they are too weak to counter the Zuma faction’s influence over the ANC. Their detractors point to the continued presence in the national government of ministers from the Zuma faction who are accused of abuses.

A key indicator of whether the government can win back public trust is, therefore, who Ramaphosa appoints to his Cabinet.

Before the announcement, he and his allies seemed to face an impossible task. They had to make good on his promise to trim down the Cabinet. But they must know that, in any governing party, fewer jobs means more resentment: one reason why Zuma became ANC president at the expense of his predecessor Thabo Mbeki is that Mbeki rarely replaced ministers and so ANC politicians believed that their job prospects were slim until he went.

Second, they had to meet public demands to remove Zuma faction ministers. But governing party leaders who deny posts to their opponents within the party are likely to be accused of purging them and might be resisted by anyone outside their faction.

A clear message

Given these obstacles, the Cabinet appointments send a clear message that Ramaphosa and his allies believe that, having improved the ANC’s vote compared to the 2016 local government elections – the first time in 15 years that it did better in any election compared to the previous one – they are firmly in control.

Only five of the 28 ministers are linked to the Zuma faction: one of them, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is probably no longer aligned to it. She was the faction’s choice for president but was not overly enthusiastic about its style of politics then and seems even less so now.

So only one in seven ministers are aligned to Zuma’s group and none are in posts regarded within government as senior positions. The Cabinet has been reduced although, as Ramaphosa acknowledged when he announced the appointments, not as much as he would like. So unconcerned was Ramaphosa about resistance within the ANC that he appointed an opposition politician, former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille, as his public works minister.

Ramaphosa and his faction did not ignore resistance within the ANC. The Cabinet was announced five days after he was inaugurated, an unusually long delay: the announcement was twice postponed on the day. This signalled that there had been intense bargaining within the ANC.

The Ramaphosa group lost one important battle. They had hoped to drastically cut the number of deputy ministers but reports suggest that they bowed to resistance from various lobby groups, among them the Zuma faction: there are 34 deputies, three fewer than under Zuma.

At least 12 of them are in the Zuma faction.

Read more:
Why Ramaphosa had to delay appointing South Africa’s next cabinet

But their strategy seems to have been to give ground only if they believed this would not prevent them from appointing the Cabinet they needed to pursue their agenda. So, as they did when Ramaphosa chose his first Cabinet, they appointed Zuma faction members in posts which are not central to their plans or as deputy ministers, who are not members of the Cabinet and have no say over what it decides.

Potential Threat

The Cabinet signals to the Zuma faction that the Ramaphosa group believes their star is waning and that they are not strong enough to turn the tide. They are probably right.

First, the election was a huge defeat for the Zuma faction. Three parties formed by or including politicians linked to the faction made no headway in the May election. While parties formed by supporters of factions which lost ANC battles won over 8% in 2009 and 6% in 2014, the three parties – African Transformation Movement, African Content Movement and Black First, Land First – polled 0,6% between them.

In the North West province, the removal of a Zuma faction premier and his replacement by a Ramaphosa faction appointment boosted an ANC vote which had fallen below 50% in by-elections to over 60%. If they were to lead the ANC again, it would probably lose its majority and most active ANC members must know this.

Second, Ramaphosa’s government has boosted the capacity of the National Prosecuting Authority to prosecute crimes committed by politicians accused of misusing public office. There are signs that key Zuma faction politicians are in the firing line. This will hamper their political role and further damage their credibility.

But there is a potential threat to Ramaphosa from within the ANC.

Deputy president David Mabuza was a key member of the Zuma faction. He abandoned it to encourage unity between the factions and was largely responsible for Ramaphosa’s victory because he allowed his provincial delegates to vote as they pleased rather than delivering Dlamini-Zuma the block vote he had promised.

Mabuza is now politically isolated: the Zuma faction feels he betrayed him while the Ramaphosa faction never trusted him. But he seems bent on reinventing himself. In the weeks before the Cabinet appointment, it was rumoured that he would not be reappointed. He reacted by delaying his swearing in as a member of Parliament and appearing before the ANC integrity commission to answer allegations of corruption published in the New York Times. His aim was presumably to discredit the claims and so to present himself as a champion of clean government and a plausible next president.

Shifting battle

His plan worked in the short-term – he is back as deputy president. Ironically that may make it harder for him to build support. ANC history shows that candidates who are removed from government office have plenty of time to campaign for support; some have used this to win election to national or provincial office. Mabuza will now have less time on his hands to campaign behind the scenes as he tackles his governmental duties.

The odds seem stacked against Mabuza if he is eyeing the presidency, for himself or his ally Paul Mashatile, the ANC’s treasurer. But he still seems a likelier contender for power than the Zuma faction. If he does aspire to lead the ANC, the threat to the Ramaphosa group may shift from the Zuma faction to Mabuza.The Conversation

Steven Friedman, Professor of Political Studies, University of Johannesburg

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Podcast tasting: Constantia Nectar

Constantia Nectar Pack Shot 2Class in a glass

For our latest podcast tasting, Michael Olivier introduced us to a magical sweet wine from historic Constantina – the Constantia Nectar.

Tasters were Gumtree Auto’s Jeff Osborne, economics megastar Mike Schussler and Clientele’s Malcolm MacDonald, who also handled the technical stuff.

Click below and share the fun:

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Why Ramaphosa had to delay appointing South Africa’s next cabinet

President Cyril Ramaphosa takes the oath of office at his inauguration by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. EPA-EFE/Stringer

By Dirk Kotze, Professor in Political Science, University of South Africa

The delay in the appointment of South Africa’s new Cabinet after the inauguration of President Cyril Ramaphosa on 25 May 2019 reflects the impact of two institutions: first, the governing African National Congress’s (ANC) integrity commission, and secondly, the Public Protector. 

The ANC’s integrity commission’s job is to root out unethical conduct in the party. The Public Protector’s responsibility provides oversight over the government. It’s empowered to “investigate, report on and remedy improper conduct” by all state organs.

Ramaphosa needs both if he is to succeed in cleaning South Africa’s body politic of corruption. He, therefore, can’t afford to run roughshod over either. 

All the incoming presidents since democracy in 1994 have announced their deputy presidents, cabinets and deputy ministers on the day after their inaugurations. Ramaphosa is the first who has not done so. 

Since the inauguration, and until the members of a new cabinet are sworn in, South Africa is without a cabinet. For this period, Ramaphosa is the only member of the Executive. Not even the Deputy President is available.

The Constitution is clear about the fact that the President must assume office within five days after his election by Parliament. And that the first sitting of the National Assembly after an election must take place not later than 14 days after the election results are announced. 

But it’s silent on the Cabinet. Theoretically, at least, this means that the President can continue without a cabinet for an unspecified period. 

The main reason Ramaphosa hasn’t been able to act with haste is that the integrity commission has made unfavourable pronouncements against some prospective Cabinet members. One of them is his deputy David Mabuza. And, the Public Protector has recommended he take disciplinary action against Pravin Gordhan, his trusted former Public Enterprises Minister. 

Ramaphosa couldn’t appoint people with a cloud over their heads, especially given his stated commitment to a clean and effective government.

ANC integrity commission

The ANC’s integrity commission was established under the party’s constitution. Any member accused of unethical or immoral conduct that can bring the ANC into disrepute can be referred to the commission by the party’s top six officials as well as its national executive committee (NEC). This is its highest decision-making body in-between its national conferences. 

The integrity committee is made up of nine ANC veterans chaired by former Robben Island prisoner George Mashamba. 

The ANC’s NEC flagged 22 people on the party’s 2019 parliamentary candidates’ list as potentially being improper. This included Mabuza and the Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe. Both are also part of the ANC’s top six leaders. They are respectively the party’s deputy president and national chairman. 

The integrity commission could potentially develop into a powerful organisational instrument in Ramaphosa’s drive against corruption, and to renew the ANC. 

Public Protector

The Public Protector is one of the institutions established by the Constitution to support and protect South Africa’s constitutional democracy. 

The Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has recommended that Ramaphosa take disciplinary action against Gordhan, a trusted ANC colleague who has served as public enterprises minister, the country’s finance minister on two occasions, as well as head of the South African Revenue Service. 

Mkhwebane has accused Gordhan of behaving illegally by approving an early retirement agreement with the deputy head of the South African Revenue Service, Ivan Pillay. Gordhan disputes the accusation and is challenging the public protector’s report in court. 

It would be indefensible for Ramaphosa to ignore Mkhwebane’s report and to appoint Gordhan. Only a court judgment could set aside the public protector’s report. 

The office of the Public Protector has the potential to be another indispensable instrument in Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption arsenal. He cannot, therefore, undermine it by ignoring a decision it has taken.

On the other hand, he will be loath to sacrifice Gordhan.


The seriousness of these considerations – and their dire impact on the executive – shows how respectful Ramaphosa is of these anti-corruption institutions. 

The fact that he stood aside and allowed Mabuza, who was key to his election as president of the ANC in December 2017, to be put through the integrity commission’s processes even though this meant not pulling off a speedy appointment of the cabinet, is a testimony to his determination to respect due process. Ramaphosa has also left Gordhan to deal with the Public Protector’s report.

After being cleared by the integrity commission, Mabuza was due, belatedly, to be sworn in as an MP.

This has removed uncertainty about his future as Deputy President. But it’s given him ammunition for the future – because he can point to the fact that he’s been exonerated of any wrongdoing by his own party.

Ramaphosa is inching closer to being able to make his vital cabinet appointments. He will want to do so as soon as possible. Constitutionally, the country’s executive power is vested in the President – but he exercises most of his power in concert with Cabinet members.

That’s not to say that this lacuna has left government departments entirely in limbo. They are still managed by directors-general, and the laws they have to implement are not affected by this situation.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Jamie Oliver restaurant closures – did the celebrity chef bite off more than he could chew?

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Isabelle Szmigin, University of Birmingham

More than a decade after being launched with a great fanfare of publicity, Jamie Oliver’s restaurant group has been taken into administration with the potential loss of up to 1,300 jobs. One person unlikely to be redundant, though, is Oliver himself, as the 43-year-old chef and television presenter will almost certainly continue with his television work and the sponsorship deals and advocacy work that his celebrity has brought him.

It is easy to be cynical about celebrity enterprises, whether they are built on real skill – as in the case of Oliver – real talent or pure celebrity status, as in the case of the Kardashians.

Admittedly he was lucky in getting his break while working at the River Cafe in West London where a film crew was making a documentary and identified his chirpy TV presence as the next big thing in TV chefs. As one commentator remarked at the time:

While some have been par-boiling for decades, young Jamie had put in a mere soupcon of an apprenticeship before his star quality was spotted at London’s famed River Cafe. Take one lad, sprinkle with some clever sexy marketing, add wacky camera angles, and hey presto, a fully-formed superchef is born.

But Oliver was – and is – a natural on television. And he has used his undoubted star power as an advocate to try to get people to understand about healthy eating – especially for children and young people – and the importance of home cooked food.

Various popular food brands have leveraged off his popularity and credibility. But his latest association with oil and gas company Shell certainly caused a lot of comment – and in the current climate change debate, we doubtless have not heard the last of it.

The contradiction that he’ll be revamping the oil giant’s food offering is unmistakable to those concerned about climate change – he has been praised as an “environment champion” by the UN’s environment programme after years of campaigning, while Shell’s business plans don’t come close to doing what is required to address the climate crisis.

A lot on his plate

So enough of the man, what about his business skills? This is where it might be that the problem lies. While celebrities can and do move into other business for which they have not been trained – Victoria Beckham as fashion designer comes to mind – it is not an easy transition to go from being a TV personality to running what is effectively a large and complex hospitality business. While building a Michelin-starred restaurant such as Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons requires high-end culinary skills, it is after all only one business. On the other hand, as Gordon Ramsay found, even having a few premium establishments is a tough business model.

Of course Oliver himself was not running the business on a day-to-day basis, but he was the driving force behind it and it may be that he did not have the experience or knowledge to recognise that a fashion for dining out is just that – probably temporary when the economy is on the up and people aren’t fearful for the future. At the same time people have been tightening their belts – literally and metaphorically – and while people are still buying food from restaurants, the number of people actually going on “dinner visits” is falling while the number of people taking advantage of the growth of food delivery companies is on the rise. For a branded restaurant chain like Jamie’s which is about the experience as much as the food, this is not good news.

When the business environment changes you have to be fleet of foot and either innovate your product – change it to meet the change in the environment – or at least drawback enough to reassess where to go next. The US restaurant market seems to be particularly good at this, for example, regularly remodelling one’s restaurant space and menu format. Fast expansion for a chain of restaurants is always risky, but – more specifically – here are some of the factors I consider to be key business problems for Oliver’s restaurant empire.

Hard to swallow

  1. The restaurant business is tough. Every day small independents are closing. That has been the case for as long as I can remember – and many new restaurants close in their first year of trading.
  2. The chain restaurant trade is newly highly competitive – over the last few years masses of new mid-market restaurants and cafes opened – Byron Burgers, Five Guys, Leon, Joe and the Juice and many more. The market is saturated and this is not like internet shopping where the world is your oyster – restaurants are service businesses that are geographically constrained. People have to get to them and every table not filled on a night is a loss.
  3. Mass marketing a premium product is difficult. This is what Oliver said about the vision he had for his restaurants: “We launched Jamie’s Italian in 2008 with the intention of positively disrupting mid-market dining in the UK high street, with great value and much higher quality ingredients, best-in-class animal welfare standards and an amazing team who shared my passion for great food and service. And we did exactly that.”

But these values come with a price and it isn’t a price everyone can pay and those that can pay, cannot pay every day. Mass-market restaurant chains are far cheaper to run and have a much bigger target market – think McDonald’s, Burger King, Greggs.

There is no doubt that a long stretch of economic uncertainty and low wage growth has been a factor in this story – but it cannot just be put down to that. Successfully running restaurants is hard and running a large number of them is a good deal harder. Being a brilliant young chef is one thing – running a business with thousands of employees and a multi-million-pound turnover is quite another.The Conversation

Isabelle Szmigin, Professor of Marketing, University of Birmingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Ramaphosa’s cabinet: who and what’s needed to end South Africa’s malaise

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South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa won’t have free reign when choosing his Cabinet.

Seán Mfundza Muller, University of Johannesburg; Cheryl Hendricks, Human Sciences Research Council, and Mzukisi Qobo, University of the Witwatersrand

South Africans recently went to the polls in a national election which the African National Congress (ANC) won by a wide margin. The incumbent president Cyril Ramaphosa will shortly appoint a cabinet after parliament officially declares him president. Thabo Leshilo asked Mzukisi Qobo, Cheryl Hendricks and Seán Muller what he should focus on.

Given that Ramaphosa probably has less than five years in the job, what cabinet posts should be his top priority?

Cheryl Hendricks: He needs to leave a legacy and live up to his promise of a new dawn. He, therefore, needs to concentrate on a few things that will make maximum impact. These include changing the conditions that generate high levels of inequality, as well as those that have made South Africa’s state institutions dysfunctional and have reduced its international standing.

So his top priority cabinet posts should be basic education and higher education, economic development, finance, trade and industry, rural development and land reform, public enterprises, international relations and science and technology.

Finally, he needs to attend to the representation of women. South Africa has lost a lot of ground in the struggle to translate gender representation into gender equality and women’s peace and security.

Seán Muller: There are four main dimensions that could be considered: strategic institutions, policy direction, the effectiveness of the state and institutions for delivery. Ideally, Ramaphosa needs to pursue major improvements on each of the four dimensions in parallel.

What will be crucial in the context of rolling back the influence of state capture on strategic institutions will be who he appoints to justice and correctional services, police, state security, as well as the economics cluster (notably finance and public enterprises).

Then there are the posts that will be important in determining policy and delivery of social services. These include social development, health, education, water and sanitation, transport, and human settlements. Many of these are also important for economic services, along with departments like energy, mineral resources, communications, telecommunications and postal services, tourism and agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

Finally, there are departments that should play a key role in the effectiveness of the state itself. These include the departments of public service and administration, and cooperative governance and traditional affairs. Within the presidency, there’s performance monitoring and evaluation.

To the extent that prioritisation is necessary, Ramaphosa has to ensure that reform of critical institutions is placed first – for the simple reason that everything else will be compromised if this fails.

Mzukisi Qobo There are limits to Ramaphosa’s reform agenda in the next five years. For him to succeed, he will need to rely on highly competent technocrats to drive change within government, take bold and decisive action in reforming institutions early on, and take measures that may make him unpopular but have good results. For this to happen he will have to stare his party down and be his own man. The last time he put his cabinet together, his party constrained his options. The result was a watered-down compromise. He can’t afford that this time.

But it will be hard for him to find capable ministers. This is true even in the economic cluster, apart from Tito Mboweni in the finance ministry and Pravin Gordhan in the department of public enterprises. Yet the economy is an area that will likely define the next five years of his term (if he completes it). With unemployment at 27.6%, economic performance and job creation, in particular, will be yardsticks against which his success will be measured.

What attributes should he be looking for in these key positions?

Cheryl Hendricks: People with integrity, people who have leadership skills and people who have a vision for the positions they will be stepping into. People with fresh ideas to deal with old challenges and who are willing to do the hard work it will take to rebuild the country. He needs a cabinet with a healthy mix of experience and youthfulness and gender balance.

Seán Muller: A common error is to think that ministerial positions should be filled on the basis of area-specific expertise. This reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of ministers relative to senior officials (like the director general of a department). Ministers serve a political function and need not have any particular expertise in an area.

What matters is a general level of competence, commitment to their mandate and the public interest, and respect for the separation between political and bureaucratic competence. A minister’s core functions are, arguably, to ensure that the officials leading the department are the best – technically and ethically – and that they are allowed and enabled to do their job.

Tito Mboweni will be hard to replace an Finance Minister.

Public confidence in the integrity of members of Cabinet is an intangible factor that is also important. But there’s tension between this and the challenges Ramaphosa faces within his own party. It is these that are likely to lead to the greatest compromises in cabinet appointments. Ultimately, it will do the country little good if he appoints the best Cabinet possible without factoring in party political considerations, only to then be so weakened within his party that he and his appointees cannot pursue the public interest.

Mzukisi Qobo: The cabinet is a reflection of the quality and depth of the governing party’s leadership bench, whose heft has been in decline over the years. Even the best of its parliamentarians will struggle to bring renewed energy to the job. Many of them are recycled, as they were part of the political arrangements in the last nine years of corruption and institutional decay under former President Jacob Zuma.

Read more:
Why the ANC itself is the chief impediment to Ramaphosa’s agenda

And, there is no evidence that they did much to ameliorate its damage. Some, such as Jeff Radebe, have been in government for two decades. There is no evidence of innovative thinking in their approach to governance.

Under such circumstances, Ramaphosa may find himself relying a lot on informal networks, especially business links, outside of government. But this could undercut his credibility among constituencies within the governing tripartite alliance.

Success requires a combination of experience, competence, integrity, and fresh ideas. This is particularly true in ministries such as the National Treasury, and those that interface with critical sectors of the economy such as agriculture, telecommunications, mineral resources, energy, and transport.

Since early 2018 there have been strong indications that Ramaphosa will overhaul the current structure of cabinet as part of an institutional reconfiguration of government. The low-hanging fruit will be to reduce the size of the cabinet. Even a country like China, 20 times larger than South Africa, has a cabinet with 24 ministers compared to South Africa’s 35. There is more emphasis on quality and meritocracy and less on viewing cabinet positions purely from the view of dispensing patronage.

Ramaphosa has a very difficult task ahead. Constitutionally, he can only appoint two individuals who are not members of parliament to his cabinet. That means he has to choose his cabinet from the list of MPs who are political fossils and were, by and large, part of the problem during Zuma’s administration.

The reality is that most MPs have a poor grasp of their oversight roles, are often out of depth on how government works, are under-prepared, and many see themselves as no more than deployees of the ruling party.The Conversation

Seán Mfundza Muller, Senior Lecturer in Economics and Research Associate at the Public and Environmental Economics Research Centre (PEERC), University of Johannesburg; Cheryl Hendricks, Executive director, Africa Institute of South Africa, Human Sciences Research Council, and Mzukisi Qobo, Associate Professor: International Business & Strategy, Wits Business School, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Kontras wine tasting podcast


In our latest podcast, we taste a rewarding Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon, the Kontras.

Michael Olivier orchestrates the tasting, while John Fraser does his best to disrupt proceedings.  The other tasters are Clientele’s Malcolm MacDonald, Gumtree Auto’s Jeff Osborne and economic superstar Mike Schussler.

Click below for the podcast:

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Mahindra: a great way to develop a gateway

Mahindra farm vehicles have landed in SA

By John Fraser

Sometimes clichés are valid. Just as Hong Kong has for decades marketed itself as the gateway to China, so, too, South Africa has its own gateway claim.

We boast when a multinational sets up its African HQ in SA, and sulk when instead the choice is, say, Lagos or Nairobi.

The ANC government has invested hundreds of billions of rand into the SA automotive sector, through a series of support programmes, with the result that we have some of the best assembly plants in the world. Now the focus is on boosting volume and local content, as well as exports.

Nissan is doing well in developing not just its SA operations, but also in devising an African strategy. It is not alone.

Of course, not all the auto sector is taken up by the four-door family car.

At its Durban plant, Mahindra is expanding production of bakkies, or pickups, eyeing the African market.

It has also just launched a range of farm vehicles in SA, and as the world’s largest tractor manufacturer, we can see it ploughing its way through the region.

There is some export support for vehicles which are made in Durban, but the real incentive dosh will come when local content is boosted and output reaches higher levels.

Expansion is certainly on the cards, helped by the certainty which is provided by the new government support strategy for the auto sector, known as the Masterplan.

With South African as its chosen gateway into Africa, the Indian company is not just moving from traditional vehicles into tractors, which could, in time, be produced in Durban, but might also expand into production of generators. Certainly, Eskom’s failures should generate a good generator market for some time to come.

With the election behind him, President Ramaphosa will undoubtedly build on the investment drive he launched last year.

He could do worse than trot out the gateway cliché a bit more often.

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South Africa’s poll is more about battles in the ANC than between political parties

File 20190506 103082 1ig8d94.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Former president of South Africa Jacob Zuma and current president Cyril Ramaphosa are supported by different factions.

Steven Friedman, University of Johannesburg

South Africans are about to vote in the most competitive election they’ve had since democracy began in 1994. But, despite this, the poll will have far more impact on the factional battle within the governing African National Congress (ANC) than on the contest between it and other parties for control of the government.

The election follows a decline in the ANC vote from just under 70% in 2004 to around 54% in 2016’s local elections. This seemed to signal that the ANC was no longer guaranteed re-election nationally and in most provinces. There has been much talk of the ANC vote sinking below 50%, forcing it to seek coalition partners if it wants to govern.

In Gauteng, the country’s economic heartland, the ANC won only 46% in the 2016 municipal elections and was forced into opposition in two metropolitan areas – Tshwane and Johannesburg. This happened because the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a breakaway from the ANC which espouses a more militant brand of African nationalism, agreed to support the country’s second biggest party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), even though they differ on just about everything. This raised the possibility that a similar arrangement this time will mean the ANC will no longer govern in Gauteng or nationally.

So, is South Africa about to see its first election in which national power changes hands? No. The ANC is almost certain to remain in government in all the eight provinces it controls, including Gauteng. This will leave the Western Cape, which the DA holds and is likely to retain despite claims that it is in trouble, as the only province in which the ANC is not in government.

This prediction is not based on opinion polls which, in this election, have continued their tradition of doing more to confuse than inform. One poll has the ANC at 61%. Another says it is on the cusp of losing its majority. The DA’s projected vote veers just as wildly. The only constant is claims that the EFF will improve although this is not what is happening in municipal by-elections, where its support remains largely unchanged.

So, the polls tell us little and there is a good argument for ignoring them. But they do have one use. They largely agree on what won’t happen: the ANC won’t lose power.

Why the ANC is sitting pretty

Predicting that the ANC will remain in government outside the Western Cape is based on political common sense.

Talk of the ANC dropping below 50% often ignores the reality that, just about everywhere, the opposition is far behind it. The nearest an opposition party comes to challenging it outside the Western Cape is in Gauteng where the DA won 37% in 2016. Elsewhere, the nearest opposition party trails by 30 percentage points or more. The only way the ANC could be removed as the party of government is by another deal between the DA and EFF.

But EFF leader Julius Malema has said that it will not make a deal with the DA and is more likely to look to a coalition with the ANC. What politicians say about coalitions cannot always be taken seriously and later Malema said the EFF would consider a coalition with the DA or ANC if they agreed to improve conditions in the townships where black poor people live.

But a DA-EFF coalition seems impossible, whatever Malema says now. For one thing, their positions on land, a core EFF concern, are diametrically opposed. This does not matter in local government, which does not decide on land policy. It would matter hugely in the national government and to a degree in the provinces.

If there is no DA-EFF deal, the only way the ANC can lose its hold on government anywhere is if either party wins a majority or at least enough to allow them to govern with small parties. But in Gauteng, no poll puts the DA above 38% – its numbers elsewhere are much weaker. In North West province, the ANC’s weakest outside Gauteng and Western Cape, the EFF is the second biggest party and it won only 16% in 2016. No poll has the EFF vote improving by more than eight percentage points.

ANC factions

Nationally and outside the Western Cape, then, two results are possible: the ANC wins a majority or is by far the biggest party and the only one able to form a coalition.

The reality which predictions of a change in government ignore -– the absence of another party which could defeat the ANC – means that, even if the ANC does as badly as one poll says it will, it will still be the party of government just about everywhere.

But, while the election will not change the government, it may change the balance between the two factions which compete for power within the ANC. -– One supports President Cyril Ramaphosa; the other backed former president Jacob Zuma.

The Zuma faction is still strongly represented in ANC decision-making forums. The battle between the two factions continues and the difference between them is often greater than that between the ANC and parts of the opposition. It is impossible to make sense of anything the ANC does without knowing which faction was behind it.

Ramaphosa was elected in 2017 because key ANC figures, most notably current deputy president David Mabuza, believed the ANC could not win this election if it was led by the Zuma faction. Ramaphosa’s credibility with some ANC power brokers depends, therefore, on showing that he can stem the ANC’s decline at the polls.

If the ANC improves on its 2016 vote, Ramaphosa will have presided over the first increase in its vote for 15 years. This will greatly improve his chances of winning re-election as ANC president at its next conference in 2022 because it will signal to ANC politicians that he can deliver more seats.

Because many South Africans are excluded from the benefits of the market, seats in municipal councils and legislatures are often the only ticket into the middle-class. So, an ANC gain in this election is certain to strengthen Ramaphosa now and in 2022 by showing that his leadership offers more opportunities to ANC politicians.

Even if it matches the last result or comes close, ANC power brokers could decide that Ramaphosa saved them from the opposition benches.

If the ANC drops to near 50%, whether Ramaphosa would be at risk of losing in 2022 would depend on whether ANC delegates could be persuaded to blame Zuma and his supporters. That is hardly assured. What is clear is that the worse the ANC does, the better the Zuma group’s chances are of removing Ramaphosa at the national conference in 2022.

The two factions have very different approaches to governing and so the battle between them affects the country’s future. It is this battle, not that between the parties, which will be shaped by the election result.

This article was updated to reflect the correct date for when the ANC could remove Ramaphosa if they chose to do so.The Conversation

Steven Friedman, Professor of Political Studies, University of Johannesburg

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Wine tasting podcast: Aristea Méthode Cap Classique Rosé 2016


Michael Olivier kicks off our podcast with a Cape bubbly, the Aristea Méthode Cap Classique Rosé 2016.

John Fraser tries to keep order with invited tasters, who are economist Mike Schussler, Jeff Osborne from Gumtree Auto and Clientele’s Malcolm MacDonald.

There is also a pre-election chat about the ANC’s slightly scratched economic record.

Check out the podcast:

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