Tuesday, May 5, 2015

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South Africa: More Zuma, More Unrest

Jacob Zuma looks set to secure a second term as ANC president. This will likely erode ANC support and drive further unrest.
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President Jacob Zuma of South Africa dancing at the World Economic Forum. Photograph by Monika Flueckiger/World Economic Forum.

Ahead of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) elective congress in December 2012, the constituencies of Gauteng and Limpopo have nominated Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe as a candidate for the ANC presidency while Eastern Cape, Northwest and Mpumalanga provinces have endorsed President Jacob Zuma. Further, the number of voting delegates in Zuma's home province of KwaZulu-Natal has recently been massively inflated.

Motlanthe will only accept the nomination if he is guaranteed victory (i.e. if he has support in most provinces), which is increasingly unlikely. Additionally, labour union federation COSATU, which is the ANC's key alliance partner and also riven by similar factional divisions, opted for leadership continuity in September and encouraged the ANC to do the same. We assess that given divisions within the ANC and ongoing industrial unrest in mining and transport, the ANC will probably maintain the current power structure, with Motlanthe remaining as Zuma's deputy.

Such a move is likely to erode significantly the ANC's electoral majority at the 2014 national elections. While the opposition Democratic Alliance has been invigorated by attempts to attract anti-Zuma ANC supporters, the main threat to the ANC will most likely be voter absenteeism. ANC polls show that a growing majority of ANC supporters favour a Motlanthe presidency.

A second Zuma presidency would drive continued severe risk of industrial unrest as support for the ANC-COSATU alliance fades, triggering further illegal work stoppages in key sectors and violent protests in townships. While risks of nationalisation and contract revisions would be moderate, corruption, preferential treatment and politically-motivated appointments are likely to become further entrenched as Zuma uses his political office to appoint the right people and make the deals that ensure that he does not get prosecuted for longstanding corruption allegations.

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