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19 December 2017

Can new ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa root out corruption in South Africa?

The party has not been saved overnight – although it is still incredibly likely to win the next election.

By Stephen Bush

Rejoice? South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has elected Cyril Ramaphosa as its new president, narrowly beating Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former minister, African Union official and ex-wife of the incumbent President Jacob Zuma.

International investors certainly think so, and the rand is up against the dollar this morning. While the electoral pull of these old loyalties is often overestimated, that Ramaphosa was Nelson Mandela’s preferred choice to succeed him as president, and his role in negotiating the end of apartheid, mean he has a better chance of refreshing the ANC. Polls have shown the party faces slipping below 50 per cent of the vote for the first time at the next election.

But Ramaphosa’s chances of rooting out corruption in the ANC and the South African government more broadly may have already suffered a fatal blow – although he won, his slate was defeated in two of the elections to the ANC’s top six positions and the Ramaphosa slate may have similarly patchy results in elections to the ruling national executive committee.

And while tackling corruption, if he can do it, might stem losses to the Democratic Alliance, Ramaphosa’s more business-friendly policies and persona may see the ANC lose votes to Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters.

So the ANC hasn’t been saved overnight (though, equally, the party is still incredibly likely to win the election at a canter). But it has, at least, given itself a chance of surviving as a viable political force into the 2020s.

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