Ramaphosa Strengthens Hold Over South Africa’s Ruling Party

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gained the upper hand in a power struggle in the nation’s deeply divided ruling party after surviving a bid to force him out of office, clearing the way for him to overhaul his cabinet.

The ouster attempt was made during a three-day meeting of the African National Congress’s top leadership that ended Sunday, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ramaphosa offered to appear before the ANC’s integrity committee to address his detractors’ accusations that he paid bribes to win the party leadership, and a proposal that he be forced to quit didn’t gain traction, the people said. The ANC’s National Executive Committee also endorsed measures being championed by the president to clamp down on graft.

The outcome of the online meeting showed Ramaphosa’s foes weren’t as united or powerful as they may have thought and leaves him “in a stronger position as leader of the party and the country,” Joanmariae Fubbs, a veteran ANC member and former lawmaker, said by phone from Johannesburg. “This now means that Ramaphosa has the room -- and must act decisively -- to deal with corrupt and errant members of his cabinet.”

South Africa’s government has been slow to effect reforms needed to revive an economy that was mired in recession before the coronavirus outbreak struck and which the Treasury and central bank expect to contract more than 7% this year. Ramaphosa’s efforts to stem corruption have been undermined by an ANC faction that’s loosely coalesced around Ace Magashule, the party’s secretary-general and a close ally of former President Jacob Zuma.

ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte told broadcaster eNCA on Monday that the party leadership had decided all officials who have been charged must vacate their positions. Former State Security Minister Bongani Bongo, who is facing a corruption trial, has taken a leave of absence from parliament and the party’s executive committee, TimesLive reported.

Ramaphosa is considering making changes to his government as he looks for ways to revive South Africa’s stagnant economy and help boost investor confidence in his administration, people familiar with the deliberations said on Saturday. No decisions have been made, the people said, asking not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak to the media. The president hasn’t discussed potential changes with the ANC’s other top five officials, as is customary, one person said.

Presidency spokesman Tyrone Seale on Saturday referred a request for comment about a potential cabinet reshuffle to ANC spokesman Pule Mabe, who asked that questions be sent by text messages, to which he didn’t respond. The ANC is due to hold a press conference on the outcome of its meeting later on Monday.

Rand Slips

The rand slipped 0.9% to 16.7488 per dollar by 2:28 p.m. in Johannesburg, paring its advance this month to 1.9%. Yields on 10-year bonds ticked two basis points lower to 9.3%.

There’s concern in domestic financial markets about the “severe backlash” from factions within the ANC against the president’s bid to rid the country of corruption, lift productivity and institute the reforms needed for faster economic growth, Investec Chief Economist Annabel Bishop said in a research note.

Amid the speculation about changes to the cabinet, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on Sunday denied rumors that he has resigned.

Ramaphosa is being pushed to act decisively against graft as the ANC’s reputation has taken a renewed battering from revelations that party officials and their family members benefited from dubious contracts to supply the government with equipment and services to battle the coronavirus.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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