Zuma Consolidates Control in South Africa

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South Africa's ruling African National Congress completed its leadership elections, with incumbent President Jacob Zuma elected to a second five-year term. Also elected was Cyril Ramaphosa to the position of deputy president and Zweli Mkhize to the post of treasurer general.

The leadership congress consolidates Zuma-led control of the African National Congress and South African government direction for the next several years to come. It also spells the beginning of the end of careers of a group of Zuma detractors, who rallied behind incumbent Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe but who included Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and incumbent Treasurer General Mathews Phosa, not to mention Julius Malema, the former president of the party's Youth League. This group of anti-Zuma dissidents held a Northern Sotho ethnicity in common and rallied political forces within the African National Congress this year to try to unseat Zuma. As a consequence of their challenge, they now face ejection to the political wilderness.

Zuma's re-election puts him in the driver's seat to return for another five-year term as president of South Africa at national elections held in 2014. Because of the dominant influence the African National Congress holds over the majority black South African population, winning the ruling party leadership race is tantamount to winning the national government leadership race.

The Zuma administration will aim to not skip a beat with the now likely replacement of Deputy President Motlanthe. Ramaphosa, an ethnic Venda hailing from northern South Africa who brings extensive business leadership and a mining sector and labor union background, will likely be given two important portfolios. One will be to manage patronage networks in northern South Africa and the other a commercial policy portfolio that builds confidence and investment in mining and business sectors in South Africa and in Africa for South African interests.

The Zuma-led African National Congress will use its elections victory to reinforce its push to assert its national influence throughout Africa and internationally. South Africa views itself as Africa’s natural great power, but efforts it has involved itself in, such as mediating conflicts from Ivory Coast to Libya, have not translated into commensurate influence shaping events.

Pretoria's political investments have secured for it international leadership positions. Ranging from a non-permanent seat for Africa on the United Nations Security Council, the membership in the Group of 20, or G-20, leading emerging economies, the membership in the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa, or BRICS, club of top emerging economies, to the leadership of the African Union, these portfolios have given South Africa a seat at global tables.

Securing international influence is more than dialogue at global summits, however. Pretoria is evolving forward from political activity. It is now beginning to invest its efforts with substance, deploying economic capital to support infrastructure and energy projects in countries ranging across Africa, France and the United States, all efforts by Pretoria to acquire influence through extensive commercial networks.

With re-election securely achieved and internal influence consolidated, the Zuma-led South African government will reinforce its push for outward influence, backed up by economic statecraft.

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