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, the people said. A proposal that he be forced to quit didn’t gain traction, they said.
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.”
The rand slipped 0.5% to 16.6739 per dollar by 10:51 a.m. in Johannesburg, leading emerging-market declines against the greenback. Yields on 10-year bonds ticked two basis points lower to 9.3%.
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.
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.
“In several areas, the state is falling short of expectations,” Ramaphosa said in his weekly newsletter on Monday. He called for politicians to steer clear of administrative matters, civil servants to be allowed to do their jobs without undue political interference and for appointments to be made on merit.
Presidency spokesman Tyrone Seale on Saturday referred a request for comment 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.
Amid the speculation about changes to the cabinet, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on Sunday denied rumors that he has resigned.
There is a malicious rumour that I have resigned! It is untrue. I am firmly here as Minster of Finance. We have work to do. So much to do: fix our economy! No time for for pettiness.
— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) August 30, 2020
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.