President Cyril Ramaphosa’s maiden ANC anniversary address today is expected to consolidate his position as a credible, accepted and legitimate leader of the ruling party.
As the ANC yesterday pulled out all the stops to draw crowds to Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium for today’s launch of its election manifesto, Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection research director Susan Booysen said it was the president’s chance to show his strength.
The 2019 ANC manifesto, signalling a watershed moment for the ANC and the country, was also expected to be “one of the most important for Ramaphosa”, with jobs, transformation, social cohesion, racism and land featuring prominently.
“The manifesto is of dual significance. On one hand, it takes place to mark the 107th anniversary celebration of the ANC and on another, it underscores the start of the party’s campaign for this year’s elections,” Booysen said. “It is accentuated by the fact that it has to consolidate Ramaphosa’s position as the credible, accepted and legitimate leader of the ANC.”
With the ANC leadership having spent much time appealing to KwaZulu-Natal for support, driving a message of party unity and renewal that earlier showed signs of being riven by factionalism, Booysen said the manifesto would signal to South Africans “how confident the ANC is in its new identity”.
She added: “What people will be looking forward to, is to hear whether the party is now confident to move forward unambiguously as a post-Jacob Zuma ANC.”
Under Zuma’s stewardship, the ANC became fragmented, with declining popular support, as reflected in a sizable swing in votes towards the Economic Freedom Fighters in the last polls.
This led to the ANC suffering losses in Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela metropolitan councils.
Testimony by witnesses appearing before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture last year also largely pointed to the influence of Zuma’s allies, the infamous Gupta family, who allegedly forced government officials to accede to pressure in awarding massive government contracts to the family.
Asked whether Ramaphosa’s recent public show of unity between himself and Zuma, whom he walked with to lay wreaths at the resting place of ANC founding father, Dr John Langalibalele Dube, and Zuma’s presence at the January 8 Statement, was a strategic move, Booysen said: “It was indeed strategic for Ramaphosa to share a stage with Zuma in KwaZulu-Natal.
“There has been a compromise made, an uneasy coexistence between the old and the new leadership within the ANC.
“The challenge for Ramaphosa now is to move forward to show the country that we are now not dealing with a compromised ANC, and that he no longer needs Zuma next to him.”
Ramaphosa has been determined to mend any cracks in ANC unity that may have been caused by the party leadership persuading Zuma to step down as the country’s president following Ramaphosa’s 2017 election as party leader.
On the campaign trail in KwaZulu-Natal, Ramaphosa consistently pushed for the cohesion of the party ahead of the unveiling of its election manifesto.
Wearing a black cap bearing the number 1912 – the year the ANC was formed – Ramaphosa spent yesterday briefly talking to commuters at the Berea taxi rank, before addressing a gala dinner aimed at raising funds for the party.