THE PLOT OUTPLOTTED?

As internal polls confirm his personal popularity, emboldened Ramaphosa moves to outflank plotters’ cabal

By Ferial Haffajee 21 September 2018

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the 25th Anniversary of the Afrexim Bank in Abuja, Nigeria. The 25th Anniversary of the Afrixem Bank is hosted by the Ministry of Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 111/07/2018 Kopano Tlape GCIS

Daily Maverick spoke to officials close to President Cyril Ramaphosa and found out why he is not losing sleep over his opponents' plans.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has come out guns blazing against growing evidence of a nascent plot against him because he does not fear it, say three officials close to him in government and in the governing party.

This week, Ramaphosa took a political knife to his adversaries when he used the Cosatu congress to tell them to plot against poverty rather than against him.

Internal ANC polls show that Ramaphosa’s personal popularity is at 72%, while his elevation to ANC President has lifted the party’s support to 60%, according to an official who spoke to Daily Maverick on condition of anonymity.

An Ipsos poll out earlier in 2018 shows the ANC at 60% while Ramaphosa’s personal popularity is even higher. In 2017, when revelations of State Capture were at their hottest, the ANC support in polls tipped below 50%, a factor which shocked party leaders because it showed that corruption could see the party lose power.

In 2016, the party lost its long-held majority in three cities – Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth (Nelson Mandela Bay).

Ramaphosa’s election as ANC leader in December boosted its support and the Ramaphoria effect in August showed his personal popularity.

The Ipsos poll showed that while the jury is still out on the ANC’s ability to govern well, its president holds the key to the party’s success in the election in 2019. Ramaphosa is popular across the board and polls at double that of DA leader Mmusi Maimane and the EFF leader Julius Malema.

President Ramaphosa’s performance is rated consistently high from both male and female South Africans of voting age and he scores very high (8.2 out of 10) among ANC supporters. Supporters from both the DA and the EFF rate the president’s performance higher than 5 out of 10. If we compare president Ramaphosa’s performance with that of the other political party leaders and the deputy president, it becomes evident how far ahead the president is and how much South Africans expect leadership from him. (Ipsos 2018)

These stratospheric numbers explain that while the news of a plot may be top of mind for the country, Ramaphosa’s aides are sanguine about what it means when quizzed by Daily Maverick about plot-talk.

Cyril is genuinely trying to foster unity,” says a party official who supported Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the ANC presidency. The official says that Dlamini Zuma creates distance between herself and a small faction meeting to attempt to destabilise the ANC ahead of the election in 2019 or to attempt to challenge the results of the party conference at Nasrec last December.

A second official close to Ramaphosa says:

There is a fightback. The (Maharani Hotel) meeting was not social. (But) there is a critical mass of people behind CR (Cyril Ramaphosa). A clear majority on the NEC ( national executive committee of the ANC) supported the removal (of former President Jacob Zuma as ANC president).

There are a small group of holdouts,” said the official, in reference to a grouping now ostensibly led by the ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule as revealed in the Sunday Times, which splashed the news of a meeting at the Maharani Hotel between Magashule and Zuma.

The second official said he did not believe Magashule’s gambit to challenge the conference outcome in court will work. That group’s work plan includes trying to use the fact that the ANC conference reflected more branches than there are wards in the country where the party rule is that there must be only one branch per governing ward. But the conference credentials (audits to ensure attendees were at the conference legally) were signed by all party leaders, including Magashule who led the Free State at the time, so a court bid is unlikely to succeed.

Support for President Cyril Ramaphosa comes from the whole country, but slightly less so from the Western and Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, although he still performs better than all other political leaders in every province. (Ipos)

Moreover, the polls show that Ramaphosa is very popular in Magashule’s backyard of the Free State where the president notches up his best support figures.

Ramaphosa is likely to use the rest of 2018 to pull the good news out of the hat because recession always drags down the popularity both of parties and of politicians.

From now until the end of October, there are plans for a range of summits including an investment and jobs summit as well as a high-level plan to tackle youth unemployment. By the end of the year, the ANC plans to have dealt with the uncertainty on land expropriation without compensation by amending the necessary laws.

Ramaphosa is likely to use all this as an arsenal both to deal with his detractors and to shore up both his own support and that of the ANC. DM

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