South Africa's ruling ANC party elects Cyril Ramaphosa to be its next leader

  • Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has won the leadership of South Africa's ruling African National Congress in a tightly fought contest
  • Ramaphosa is a businessman and former trade union leader, and also one of South Africa's richest men

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has won the leadership of South Africa's ruling African National Congress in a tightly fought contest.

Ramaphosa beat Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ), a former cabinet minister and current President Jacob Zuma's ex-wife, to the role.

The win by Ramaphosa is seen as a major upset for Zuma and the new ANC leader will contest the presidency in South Africa's next general election, scheduled for 2019. Thus, Ramaphosa has a strong chance of being the next South African president.

Ramaphosa is a businessman and former trade union leader, and also one of South Africa's richest men. He is viewed positively by investors and markets for his potential as a reformer, though NDZ had promised "radical economic transformation."

The vote was tightly run, with a result initially expected Sunday morning. The country's sovereign dollar bonds extended their gains after the result as announced at 5.00 p.m. London time Monday. The rand continued to strengthen against the dollar and had tracked higher for much of the afternoon.

President Jacob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa during the African National Congress' policy conference on July 1, 2017, in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Muntu Vilakazi | Foto24 | Gallo Images | Getty Images
President Jacob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa during the African National Congress' policy conference on July 1, 2017, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Growth revisions

In his final speech as president of the ANC delivered Saturday, Zuma spoke of economic "transformation" though he acknowledged that "the economy remains fragile."

2017 has not borne economic fruit for South Africa, one of Africa's largest economies. In October, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba revised down the country's economic growth outlook for 2017 to 0.7 percent, dropping from the previous 1.3 percent figure.

The country's local currency debt was also downgraded to "junk" status by ratings agency S&P Global in November this year.

"Zuma stands to lose so much if his influence over the ANC goes," Martin Roberts, deputy head of Africa at analysis firm IHS Market said in a note last week. The president is facing tumbling popularity ratings and 783 charges of corruption. Zuma has denied wrongdoing.

Once led by Nelson Mandela and historically dominant in South African politics since the end of Apartheid in the early 1990s, the ANC has more recently been losing popularity due to a continuous stream of allegations leaking out against the government. The opposition Democratic Alliance now controls several major cities, including Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria.