South Africa


Ramaphosa will use BRICS Summit to make clear a second-term bid in 2024

Ramaphosa will use BRICS Summit to make clear a second-term bid in 2024
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Nic Bothma)

President Cyril Ramaphosa will use this week’s BRICS Summit to position himself as a global statesman and a shoo-in for a second term after the 2024 election. With an expected 40 heads of state jetting into Johannesburg, Ramaphosa wants to make clear his intention to fight and win next year’s election for the ANC.

Sandton in Johannesburg is getting a spit, polish and shine to host the summit where BRICS countries want to establish a voice to end the Ukraine war, discuss expansion of the five-country bloc and mull a currency to challenge the US dollar’s global economic hegemony. 

The jury is out on the efficacy of the plans. President Cyril Ramaphosa will be looking to build his somewhat battered global profile. More importantly, he wants to make clear to South African power blocs and the public that he aims to fight the 2024 election to win a second term and establish a governing reputation that has evaded him since he became President in 2018.  

Early in 2023, a narrative developed in political circles that he was tired and “quietly quitting” (See News24’s Qaanitah Hunter here). Deputy President Paul Mashatile was primed and ready to take over. Mashatile’s team briefed constituencies, including the media and business, on how he would be an implementer (the implication being Ramaphosa was a ditherer).   

The numbers bore out the narrative. Power cuts have been worse in 2023 than in any other year. The stalled reform of Transnet in a commodity boom bashed growth projections from post-Covid hopeful (between 3% and 4%) to comatose (0.3%-0.7%). In March, Investec CEO Fani Titi told Bloomberg, “We are going nowhere fast. The government is disorganised. Totally disorganised.” Bloomberg reported that Ramaphosa risked abandonment by his kitchen cabinet and brains trust — big business. 

As business began to back a new princeling (Mashatile spoke here, there and everywhere in Sandton’s C-suites), Ramaphosa realised that a second term was not a given. He has since put his foot on the accelerator. 

Movement at last

With support from a Business for South Africa Marshall Plan to fix load shedding, logistics, crime and corruption, there is finally movement.

An aide, who requested anonymity, says, “There is no indication he doesn’t want his second term. He wouldn’t have sought re-election in 2022 [as party president at the ANC conference] if that were the case. The guy hardly sleeps.” 

He said Ramaphosa had met business leaders three or four times since early August. The President had detailed knowledge of what was happening at Eskom and Transnet. “We end up trying hard to convince him to [at least] take a Saturday off,” the aide said. 

Ramaphosa still has the highest approval rating of all South African politicians as measured by two major polls, and the ANC is dependent on him to maintain its majority. The latest polls suggest the governing party will get between 48% and 51% in next year’s election, which will be held, at a date yet to be decided, between May and August. The poll figures are based on current electoral turnouts.  

If opposition parties can bring out the 14 million, especially young voters who are either not registered or did not vote in the 2021 election, the picture can change. 

And if Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s plans to end load shedding by 2024 succeed, this favours the governing party.  

Opposition parties’ fortunes rise as load shedding stages deepen, numerous studies of political support reveal.  

The Multi-Party Charter pact signed last week by seven political parties led by the DA, Inkatha, ActionSA and the FF+ has taken the fight to the ANC. The Multi-Party Charter parties who contested the 2021 local government election won 37%. If the coalition pact holds, it poses a threat to ANC hegemony.  

The question is whether Mashatile will wait to bid for the ANC presidency in 2026 and build a profile as Deputy President of the country and the party. In July, he told reporters there was a bid to oust him but did not say by whom or why. Ramaphosa dampened his deputy’s fears. This suggests a détente. 

A business leader said, “Pretty universally, business was hugely disappointed in Ramaphosa.” He had moved quickly to stop the State Capture process by putting new leaders at the SA Revenue Service, the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority, but then stasis hit.

He added that Ramaphosa’s “is an administration that wants positive change” but needed more presidential decisiveness. He said that a pledge by CEOs to create real momentum on energy, logistics, crime and corruption was bearing fruit. 

“It is highly focused and there’s no arm-wrestling on [these specific] policies.” 

The intensity of load shedding is reducing, and the electricity regulator, Nersa, has approved the first of three licences to create a transmission company. But as Marianne Merten reported here, a crucial piece of energy reform legislation is stuck in Parliament. This is either because of bureaucratic inertia or because Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe is hitting the brakes on reform.

Mashatile will have to break this logjam because he is the head of government business at Parliament. Eskom announced and cancelled the launch of an energy distribution trader because Parliament had not passed the legislation. 

Ramaphosa will have to play a deft part at the BRICS Summit by hosting a meeting that builds the bloc’s economic potential and maintains South Africa’s trade and political relationship with the US. 

Legislators in Washington are observing the summit. The Agoa preference programme, which provides duty-free access to US markets for an annual $3-billion in exports, is safe for now but can come into play quickly. And the European Union sponsors the potential R1.3-trillion transition investment (JET-IP), which can pave and pay the way out of South Africa’s crippling power cuts. (See Ethan van Diemen’s report here). DM



Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Brent McNeil-Spence says:

    “The guy hardly sleeps.” Suuuurrrreeeee. Could have fooled me!

  • Hermann Funk says:

    He is fast asleep on the job and a three day conference will not turn him into a statesman. He has proven over many years that statesmanship is NOT part of his skills set.

  • Trenton Carr says:

    Now Mr do nothing wants to do something?
    Pull my other one.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Cyril the spineless, the useless, with zero gravitas and respectability. Hypocritical, treacherous and treasonous. He is out of touch, indecisive, clueless and “rules” by committee”. Say one thing and do the opposite. Most times do nothing and remain out of sight, express shock and occasionally retract. Hold commissions of enquiry in order to delay, obfuscate and misinform. The Lady R is one of many examples. A statesman – absolute nonsense!!

  • George 007 says:

    I hate to break the news to Cyril but being the host country of BRICS will do nothing in terms of changing his legacy. Just making sure breakfast, lunch, and dinner are on time for delegates will be hard enough for the ANC to organize.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    IMO it is too late to prove anything, but as human memory is very short and the election is only next year, who knows? Not having shown strong leadership until now, makes it hard to believe, that he has it in him.
    Why has Ramaphosa never kept a press conference as it is normal procedure in other countries? He speaks very well, but maybe needs time for the correct answers. Is he afraid to make a bad impression?

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