June 13, 2024

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Cyril Ramaphosa’s future is in doubt after disappointing elections in South Africa

Cyril Ramaphosa’s future is in doubt after disappointing elections in South Africa

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Senior figures in the African National Congress on Friday discussed the future of President Cyril Ramaphosa and options for a coalition partner, as losses in South Africa’s general elections deepen.

With more than three-quarters of the votes counted after Wednesday’s election, the ANC received less than 42 percent, several percentage points below the performance it and most analysts had expected, which would deprive it of its governing majority.

The poor performance has complicated the task of finding a partner that would allow it to extend its continuous rule in South Africa, which dates back to 1994 after the end of apartheid.

It has also cast doubt on the future of Ramaphosa, who took power six years ago with a promise to revitalize the ANC but has instead overseen its worst electoral performance on record.

Mavuso Msimang, a respected figure in the party, said there would now be questions about whether Ramaphosa could continue as leader. He added: “If the voter turnout remains close to 40 percent, people will suggest his departure. “There is a lot of talk about that,” he said.

If Ramaphosa stays, a coalition with the market-oriented Democratic Alliance could be formed, Msimang said. The latest vote tally puts the DA in second place with 22.3 per cent.

Msimang added that if Ramaphosa was expelled, it would open the way for an agreement with Jacob Zuma’s Umkhonto we Sizwe party, which polled 12.8 per cent despite being formed by Ramaphosa’s predecessor just six months ago.

“What businessmen want is certainty that can only come through an ANC-DP alliance,” Msimang said, adding that some within the ANC would strongly oppose reaching an agreement with the Democratic Alliance, which they view as whitewashed and reactionary.

With 75 per cent of the votes counted as of Friday evening, the ANC had 41.5 per cent, well below the percentage expected in the mid-40s and the 57.5 per cent it received in 2019. “It is astonishing within the leadership of ANC, but we were expecting it.”

Political analysts said that given the scale of the ANC’s losses, it would be difficult for it to form a working coalition without allying itself with the Democratic Alliance or MK. Most other small parties did not receive more than 1 or 2 percent of the vote.

Paul Machatel, Ramaphosa’s deputy and likely successor, is believed to be likely to favor reaching an agreement with the MK and perhaps the extremist Economic Freedom Fighters. The Marxist-leaning party led by Julius Malema came in fourth place with 9.4 percent.

Gwede Mantashe, president of the ANC, told the Financial Times that there had been no call within the party for Ramaphosa to be sacked.

“I will fight this with everything I have. Don’t discuss impeaching the president in the middle of an election,” he said, adding that talk of Ramaphosa’s resignation was something “our opponents are discussing.”

Asked if the ANC would look into the matter after the election, he said: “This matter will not be discussed.” Mantashe said it would be wrong to consider this a “bad result” while the ANC still received more than three million votes and new parties were emerging on the South African political scene.

Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the South African Constitutional Development Council, said Ramaphosa needed to “move quickly” towards reaching an agreement with the Democratic Alliance or risk being ousted by his own party first.

“If they get rid of him, they will make a deal with the MK,” he said. “Once the ANC starts mobilizing against Cyril, he could be out very quickly.”

“Ramaphosa’s head is here,” said William Gumede, president of the Johannesburg-based Democratic Business Foundation. “They will be looking for a scapegoat and it will likely be him. He will have to use all his negotiating skills to stay in power.”

Ralph Matekga, an independent political analyst, said the potential outcome for the ANC would put any sitting leader under pressure. “Ramaphosa can expect more pressure than most players, given how vulnerable he is. I can’t see him riding this,” he said.

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