Research analysts at Nomura have detailed how factions within the ruling African National Congress are going to make the succession battle for the party’s next leader more complicated than every before – here’s the list of the most likely candidates, and how likely they are to win.
According to Nomura, the ANC’s is split into several ‘camps’ that, broadly, side with either the pro-Zuma ‘tenderpreneur’ faction, the ‘reformist’ and ‘socialist’ faction (currently being symbolically represented by finance minister Pravin Gordhan), or somewhere in between.
The ANC elective conference is currently set to take place in the latter parts of 2017, with all talk of an early conference swept off the table. According to party insiders, the logistics of the succession battle are already underway, with the matter being discussed at NEC meetings, and will continue to be a headlining topic in every meeting to come.
Ideally, the ANC would like to proceed to an elective conference with consensus as to who its next leader will be – but recent, open conflict within the party are showing that the succession lines are anything but clear.
This graph shows the various factions within the ANC, and their relative power (and change in power over time) – something to consider when discussing the ANC’s next leader.
It’s widely understood that current African Union chair, and ex-wife to president Jacob Zuma, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is the front-runner for the tenderpreneur faction – while current deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, is being supported among reformists.
However, this is by no means a clear-cut race between the two, Nomura said, as the internal politics of the ANC – with no clear lines of succession, and open conflict among members – may force the party to look elsewhere for compromise.
Nomura has broken down the current candidates whose names have been echoing down party halls and mapped their routes to the presidency; which ANC faction is likely to support them; and the potential stumbling blocks in them achieving the country’s top office.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – High Probability
- Support Base: Tenderpreneur camp, KwaZulu-Natal “Zulu” block, Premier League, ANC Youth League, ANC Women’s League, MK Veterans
- Route to the presidency: Fits the call for ANC’s next leader to be a woman; has backing of the leagues, tenderpreneurs and the premier league.
- Blocking factors: Links to Jacob Zuma; lacks charisma; does not have own support base, but will rather inherit Zuma’s.
“The presumptive candidate of the tenderpreneur faction represents the status quo to a degree,” Nomura said. Her association with president Jacob Zuma, especially in name, is a concern to the party heads, as is the worry that she will be a ‘figurehead president’, with the real power lying ‘behind the throne’, so to speak – ie, in Zuma’s hands.
Zweli Mkhize – Moderate Probability
- Support Base: Gauteng block, parts of the tenderpreneur faction and KwaZulu-Natal “Zulu” blocks.
- Route to the presidency: A non-aligned ‘fresh face’, a compromise president linking disparate factions.
- Blocking factors: Either seen as too close to Zuma, or that Zuma will not be safe under him.
Mkhize has moved up from being the probably third in line to moving past deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to be the second most likely to take the presidency. According to Nomura this is because is seen as the compromise candidate that could possible keep both the reformers and the tenderpreneurs happy. A down-side is that he is almost a completely unknown factor that could go either way.
Cyril Ramaphosa – Moderate Probability
- Support Base: Gauteng block, business groups, parts of Cosatu and the SACP.
- Route to the presidency: Default option, following party tradition of the deputy becoming president; could be the ‘last one standing’ after conference battles.
- Blocking factors: Lacks internal support; business support dropping; doubts over leadership capabilities due to failings as deputy president.
It is convention for the deputy president of the ANC to go on to become president – a tradition which may favour Ramaphosa, Nomura said. However, his lack of involvement in protesting state capture, or speaking publicly on important matters, have painted him as a ‘hands-off’ leader, with little internal support within the ANC itself.
Baleka Mbete – Low Probability
- Support Base: Eastern Cape block.
- Route to the presidency: Seen as a ‘fresh face’ in the executive, and meets the requirements for the next leader of the ANC to be a woman.
- Blocking factors: Lacks internal party support.
Seen as a “dark horse candidate”, Mbete has been ‘on manoeuvres’ in recent months, Nomura said. “She does not seem to have a particular base to call on and may seek a route as a compromise candidate.” However, the manner in which she has fulfilled her role as speaker in parliament raises questions on how she would serve as president, the group said.
Gwede Mantashe – Very Low Probability
- Support Base: Branch-level support.
- Route to the presidency: Trusted ‘old hand’ politician. Possible compromise candidate.
- Blocking factors: Seen as too ‘compromised’ after term as secretary general.
A possible compromise president, Mantashe is a trusted member of the ANC. However, he lacks any substantial backing within the ANC, and is seen as being too ‘compromised’, and is blamed for the party’s loss in the recent elections.
Kgalema Montlanthe – Very Low Probability
- Support Base: Broad support across all factions.
- Route to the presidency: A respected, elder statesman, possible compromise candidate.
- Blocking factors: Lack of personal willingness to re-enter the campaign game.
If there is enough momentum for an elder statesman to take the top position in the party, Motlanthe could re-emerge as president. However, following a lack of momentum the last time he ran for the position, it is unlikely that his name would be put forward.
Jacob Zuma – Extremely Low Probability
- Support Base: Tenderpreneur camp, KwaZulu-Natal “Zulu” block, Premier League, ANC Youth League, ANC Women’s League, MK Veterans.
- Route to the presidency: If there is absolutely no other option, and there is a strong call for continuity.
- Blocking factors: Scandals, corruption, and a desperate need for change.
There is nothing that stops president Jacob Zuma from running for a third term as president of the ANC, even though he cannot be elected as head of state. His candidacy has for a third term has previously been seriously considered – however the scandal and controversy that makes up his legacy makes him an non-viable candidate, even to his own faction.
Malusi Gigaba / Fikile Mbalula – Tiny Probability
- Support Base: Possibly the ANC Youth League.
- Route to the presidency: If the ANC heeds calls to ‘skip a generation’ and elect younger leaders.
- Blocking factors: Too young, with no major support base as yet.
While there have been calls for the ANC to “skip a generation” and elect younger leaders, it is an extremely unlikely scenario where this will happen, as there is little to no internal support for younger officials. Of the ‘next-gen’ leaders, Malusi Gigaba and Fikile Mbalula float to the top as the most likely candidates, but they do not have a realistic chance at this point in time.