What Ramaphosa and Zuma’s partnership means for South Africa

In February, South Africa will hold its 2019 National and Provincial Elections. The election is very crucial because it will determine who becomes the next President of South Africa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is looking to retain majority status and a full term in office as president but he hopes to do this with the help of South Africa’s 11th head of state, Jacob Zuma. Ramaphosa, while putting up a united front during ANC’s 107th birthday celebration in KwaZulu Natal province said he would use his Predecessor “for various tasks,” ahead of the election.

The incumbent who was to lead the ruling African National Congress in the election handed the leadership baton to his predecessor saying, “a former president but a former president that I am going to use as the president of the ANC for various tasks.” adding that “the ANC came out of a period where organisational capacity was diminished, but we can declare with confidence that both the ANC and the country have entered a new period of renewal.”

Despite being president, Ramaphosa still has to contend with his party as many of his challenges lie within the ANC and its fractions. Thanks to some last minute defections last year, the president won control of the party last year, but he did so by the narrowest of margins.

Last year, BBC reported a growing concern in some quarters that the ghosts of the Zuma era may be plotting some sort of comeback. Frans Cronje, a political analyst at the Institute for Race Relations in Johannesburg told the BBC that “We’re fairly certain that the infrastructure of Mr Zuma is engaged in a fight-back strategy… to paralyse Mr Ramaphosa, delay his reforms, delay improved economic circumstances, and exploit the ensuing populist fervour to destabilise this new administration.” The question is, to what end? To regain control of the ANC and thus state power? Regardless of which, Zuma is already making political waves.

Zuma through his newly opened social media account has already begun weighing in on the land issue. “We are discussing the land issue too much for my liking, that is why the ANC debated the matter and took a very clear resolution that we must have an expropriation of land without compensation. I don’t know why there is a long debate about this matter. The matter is simple.”

Zuma added that “we cannot change the facts of history that after the Berlin Conference, whites came to South Africa in particular, came in and took the land. The struggle, the wars that were fought, many thousands of people died defending the land.”

The decision to involve Zuma in the elections may be a ploy by the ANC to garner the support of both the Ramaphosa and the Zuma faction. It is unlikely that Ramaphosa’s supporters will defect to Zuma’s camp and vice versa, so the party’s best bet to win the presidential seat in the next election is to put up a united front by making Zuma the face of its elections campaign. According to political analyst Protas Madlala, Zuma’s involvement “will silence those within the ANC who are still bitter about Zuma’s removal from office and cement the divisions within the party in the province.”

The ANC has held a majority of the seats in the National Assembly since 1994. The party had the majority of its votes in 1999 and 2004, with a slight fall in its majority in 2009 and 2014. With many of its election victories, the party thinks itself as South Africa’s unique political actor, thus it considers itself synonymous with the nation. With Zuma and Ramaphosa partnering for many tasks ahead, the chances of another party ruling the country are slim.