The rest of the team that will work with Ramaphosa are: David Mabuza as deputy president, Gwede Mantashe as national chairman, Ace Magashule as secretary-general, Paul Mashatile as treasurer-general and Jessie Duarte remains deputy secretary-general.
It makes for strange bedfellows given that Mabuza, Magashule and Duarte are widely viewed as Jacob Zuma supporters. This means that Ramaphosa won’t be as free to act as he might want to.
For example, it’s unlikely that a majority of the six would back a motion to ask Zuma to retire as state president before the end of his term of office in 2019.
It also remains to be seen to what extent this mixed slate leadership will support action against the Guptas, Zuma’s friends at the heart of state capture allegations, and tenderpreneurs - business people who get rich through government tenders, usually using dubious means - and the whole system of patronage and clientelism that has gotten out of hand.
The make-up of the team that Ramaphosa will lead might also baulk at pressing the ANC led Parliament to take decisive action against the decline in the country’s large state owned enterprises such as South African Airways and power utility Eskom.
Implications for the opposition
The best results from a partisan viewpoint for the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) would be had Dlamini-Zuma won. This would have alienated more ANC voters in the 2019 elections.
Ramaphosa’s victory means the DA has no option but to knuckle down to the hard slog of building branches in townships, ensuring a rising proportion of black people are represented as members, and promoting a rising proportion of black representatives in its parliamentary and provincial legislature caucuses.
Anticipating a Ramaphosa win, DA leader Mmusi Maimane set the tone for his party’s 2019 campaign in a recent round of full page newspaper ads with the message: whoever wins at the ANC conference is irrelevant – only a DA government can turn the country around. For DA election canvassers, every month that Zuma continues in office as state president is the gift that keeps on giving.