S. Africa Courts Bruise Dlamini-Zuma's ANC Leadership Hopes

(Bloomberg) -- Courts in three South African provinces on Friday dealt blows to the chances of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed her ex-husband, Jacob Zuma, as head of the ruling party this weekend and national president in 2019.

In the town of Mahikeng in the North West province, the court disqualified branches representing 50 delegates from attending the African National Congress electoral conference that starts Saturday. In a separate judgment in Pietermaritzburg in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, the court upheld a September ruling that overturned the 2015 election of provincial party leaders allied to Zuma and Dlamini-Zuma.

In the central city of Bloemfontein, the court ruled that the ANC in the Free State province’s conference and the decisions taken there, including the election of 27 provincial executive committee leaders, were unlawful and void.

The majority of party branches in these three provinces back Dlamini-Zuma as ANC leader against Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

S. Africa Courts Bruise Dlamini-Zuma's ANC Leadership Hopes

The court in Mahikeng disqualified 32 branches from the Bojanala municipal region, according to North West Provincial Secretary Dakota Legoete.

“This is judicial overreach,” Legoete said. “The courts are playing politics now. In other countries the army makes coups. Here it’s the judiciary.” The ANC will appeal the ruling, he said.

While the court in Pietermaritzburg granted the Provincial Executive Committee leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, the September judgment is effective pending the outcome of any appeals, Judge Sharmaine Balton said. This may disqualify KwaZulu-Natal’s 27 PEC votes from the conference. KwaZulu-Natal has the biggest party membership of South Africa’s nine provinces.

Tight Contest

The contest is likely to be tightly fought. Ramaphosa received the backing of 1,860 branches nationwide ahead of the conference. Dlamini-Zuma was supported by 1,330. The delegates, who account for 90 percent of the ballot, aren’t bound to vote the way their branches have indicated. The rest come from provincial and national party leadership as well as women’s, veterans and youth leagues.

A win for Ramaphosa, a former trade unionist who built a multi-billion rand business empire before becoming the party’s deputy president, could spark a rand rally to below 13 per dollar, a level last seen in September, according to Rand Merchant Bank. A victory for his main opponent, a former chairwoman of the African Union Commission, could see the currency test the record-weak levels it posted last year.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.