Our nation is about to arrive at a perilous crossroad

15 December 2017 - 06:38 By The Times Editorial
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma or Cyril Ramaphosa might replace Jacob Zuma as ANC president
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma or Cyril Ramaphosa might replace Jacob Zuma as ANC president

This weekend marks the most defining moment in democratic South Africa as the ANC decides who will lead the party after President Jacob Zuma.

By implication it will also tell us who will be the next president of South Africa, presuming the ANC retains its electoral majority, which could also hinge on the outcome of the leadership vote at Nasrec in Johannesburg over the next 48 hours. Will Cyril Ramaphosa prevail or will Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma?

Recent polling data shows that, should ANC delegates vote for Ramaphosa, the party is likely to find revived support among voters who are turning their backs on a liberation movement that has struggled to define itself in government in recent years.

But this outcome is far from certain. While Ramaphosa appears to have the support of most branches going into the conference, the devil is in the detail. There is an equal likelihood that Dlamini-Zuma will prevail, most likely precipitating another split in the party and threatening to topple the ANC in 2019's national elections.

Financial markets, which initially priced in a Ramaphosa win, are now more ambivalent. Options pricing on the rand shows that traders anticipate as much movement down as up against the dollar next week.

Everything is at stake for South Africa in the coming days. A Dlamini-Zuma win effectively means an extension by proxy of her former husband's corrupt administration. Should she prevail, our economic rating will be firmly junked soon after, killing any hope of economic growth in the coming year and seeing tens of thousands more jobs lost. The abuse of state institutions for personal interests and flagrant flouting of the constitution are likely to continue.

A Ramaphosa win, as flawed as he might be, is the only outcome that will be good for South Africa - and for the ANC.