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IN FOCUS | The relapse of ANC

  NIAS Africa Team

Africa Weekly #44 & 45, Vol. 1, No. 44 & 45
3 January 2023


South Africa: Ramaphosa’s leadership, divided ANC and struggling economy

Ramaphosa being re-elected as the ANC’s president would mean that he has to balance between divided party interests and public interests, which will determine the party’s fate in the 2024 presidential elections.

By Anu Maria Joseph


On 19 December, President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected for a second term as President of the African National Congress (ANC). Ramaphosa won with 2,476 votes against Zweli Mkhize securing 1,897 votes out of over 4,000 ANC delegates vote. His victory opens the way for him to run for presidency for a second time in 2024. Oscar Mabuyane, who was a contestant for ANC deputy president said: “This win is not only for the ANC perspective or a faction. It is for the country.” Speaking at the ANC’s elective conference Ramaphosa promised that his government will ensure resolving the power crisis in the country by purchasing more renewable energy over the next few years and would continue to fight corruption. He added: "We realise more clearly that the failure of basic services in parts of the country has decreased the confidence that our people have (in the ANC)."

The ANC, founded in 1912, during its earlier stages rebelled against colonialism and fought against discrimination against the blacks and secured their rights. It brought great leaders like Nelson Madela who fought against the apartheid system in 1948. After Nelson Mandela was elected the first president of South Africa in 1994, the ANC remained the ruling party re-elected in 1999, 2004, 2009, 2014 and 2018. However, the party currently survives stressing upon the legacy of the great leaders. During the municipal election in 2021, the ANC won less than half the vote, the first time since 1994. The former ANC deputy secretary-general says: “The low voter turnout, especially in traditional ANC’s strongholds, communicates a clear message — the people are disappointed in the ANC with the slow progress in fixing local government, in ensuring quality and consistent basic services, [and] tackling corruption and greed.”

The relapse of ANC

Following are the factors that question ANC’s tenacity.

First, factionalism within the party. South Africa’s governing ANC is known for being faction-ridden and ideologically disoriented. Having no clear shape, leadership, manifesto or membership ANC’ Radical Economic Transformation (RET) faction has become central to the contemporary ANC. The faction grew in its roots during Jacob Zuma’s presidency between 2009 and 2018. An open anti-Cyril Ramaphosa and pro Zuma approach of the RET faction has left a public impact on the fragmented ANC. Focus on internal issues sidelining public concerns has made ANC governments unpopular.

Second, Massive corruption and nepotism. The RET faction under Zuma has been often implicated for its corrupt practices and “state capture” allegations. In 2018, Jacob Zuma was charged with 16 counts of corruption, racketeering, fraud and money laundering during his presidency. His government was in controversy over an illegal arms deal with a French firm and corrupt relations with the Indian Gupta family, even influencing ministerial appointments. In early December, prior to the ANC elections, Ramaphosa faced corruption allegations over USD four million found in his farm, which put him at the risk of impeachment. Deep and heavily stranded corrupt practices within ANC have undermined public trust in ANC and government.

Third, the crippling economy and social issues. In July 2021, the arrest of Jacob Zuma was followed by violent riots that claimed nearly 300 lives. More than an "insurrection" spurred by pro-Zuma elements, riots were on poverty, corruption, inequality, unemployment and political insecurity. In 2021, the World Bank reported, the unemployment in the country rose from 5.4 million to 9.5 million. Youth unemployment is nearly 57 per cent. Besides, the World Bank recognises South Africa as an unequal country as 20 per cent of the wealthy white Africans control the 70 per cent of resources in the country. According to the Department of Statistics in South Africa nearly 49.2 per cent of the population above 18 and  according to the Living conditions Survey (LCS), 52.2 per cent of women fall below the upper-bound poverty line. In addition, public outcry is spurring as the country experiences crippling power cuts for more than seven hours a day. Besides having a reputation as the world's most dangerous country in the world outside the war zone, in December, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime said that Ransom kidnappings are on explosive growth in South Africa since 2016. Nearly 4,000 cases of ransom kidnappings were reported between July and September this year alone. Government does little to address grassroots issues.  While South Africa is regarded as one of the developed countries in Africa, its periphery struggles with failure of basic services.

What does Ramaphosa’s leadership mean?

Despite Ramaphosa’s win, the ANC remains fragmented. Mkhize has emerged as the head of the RET faction that opposes Ramaphosa and his anti-corruption stands. On another sphere, Ramaphosa’s leadership means continuity and policy certainty in the country’s economy. For the business sector, a policy status quo is expected against a potential populist policy if Ramaphosa had lost.

It also means, in the coming years Ramaphosa will struggle to balance between divided party interests and public interests, which will determine whether the ANC would collapse. However, public concerns need to be prioritised. The fate of the ANC in the 2024 presidential election depends on how Ramaphosa keeps his electoral promises which includes rooting out corruption, energy crisis, economic reforms, political stability and unemployment. And, he faces the task of regaining support of the RET faction and keeping the party united.


20 December 2022 – 2 January 2023

By Apoorva Sudhakar and Anu Maria Joseph


UGTT approves transport workers strike

On 25 December, the UGTT approved a land, air and sea transport workers’ strike to be held on 25 and 26 January against “the government's marginalisation of public companies." The two-day strike is aimed to pressure President Kais Saied after he took over executive powers in 2021. (“Tunisian union approves two-day strike by transport workers,” Reuters, 28 December 2022)


 Federal delegation on way to Tigray to monitor ceasefire agreement

On 26 December, the Ethiopian government communication service said that  a delegation of the government is on the way to the northern Tigray region to oversee the implementation of the ceasefire agreement signed in November. The government said that it will be the first high-level government delegation to visit Tigray after two years. It added: “This gesture is an attestation to the peace agreement getting on the right track and progressing.” (“Ethiopian federal government delegation heads to Tigray,” Al Jazeera, 26 December 2022)


Transitional council’s deputy head leads mission to South Darfur

On 29 December, Deputy Head of the Sudan Transitional Military Council General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo led a mission to South Darfur to monitor the security situation in Nyala city after violence claimed 10 lives and left 25 people injured. The UN said 16,200 people were displaced after several villages were burned. The government in Nyala accused nomads of sparking the violence. Meanwhile, in an unrelated incident, at least eight people were killed and 11 injured in clashes in Central Darfur on 28 and 29 December. (“Sudanese general leads mission to South Darfur after violent clashes,” Reuters, 29 December 2022)

At least 12 people killed in ethnic violence

On 25 December, at least 12 people were killed in ethnic violence in western Darfur region. A spokesperson for the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur said that clashes broke out between herdsmen and farmers in the Beleil region also wounded nearly 42 people. Local authorities said that the clashes erupted when herdsmen attempted to loot a motor rickshaw in the village of Amouri. Later, a state of emergency was declared in the region to contain the violence. (“Ethnic violence in Sudan's Darfur region kills at least 12,” Africanews, 26 December 2022)


UN report reveals Rwandan involvement in the east

On 21 December, a group of independent UN experts said there was substantial evidence of Rwanda’s involvement in military operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s east. The experts’ report said the Rwandan army had directly intervened and also supported the rebels in the DRC’s east, by supplying weapons, ammunition and uniforms. The report said Rwanda reinforced M23 rebels “for specific operations, in particular when these were aimed at seizing strategic towns and areas.” (“Rwandan army conducted military operations in DR Congo, UN says,” France24, 22 December 2022)

UN eases arms embargo 

On 21 December, BBC reported that the UN had eased arms embargo on the Democratic Republic of the Congo to assist the army in fighting armed groups. With this, countries can conduct arms sales to the DRC government without notifying the UN Security Council. The DRC government said easing of the embargo was a move to correct the “injustice.” In a related development, the UN also extended its peacekeeping mandate in the country’s east by one year. (“UN eases DR Congo arms embargo,” BBC, 21 December 2022)


Opposition, civil society look for options to abdicate King

On 21 December, News24 reported that civil society representatives and opposition parties had convened in South Africa to frame strategies to abdicate King Mswati III and establish democracy. The leaders adopted the eBundu Declaration to frame “resolutions on important political issues affecting our country, Swaziland.” The opposition calls the country Swaziland, instead of Eswatini claiming that changing the name to the latter was a dictatorial move. The leaders also referred to the mass riots earlier this year and said: “(We are) humbled and driven forward by the spirit of the ultimate sacrifice of the martyrs of our revolution, who have been senselessly and brutally slaughtered by the government of King Mswati III.” The declaration called for a boycott of the 2023 Tinkhundla elections; Tinkhundla is an electoral system providing governance, based on traditional, administrative subdivisions. (Lenin Ndebele, “Eswatini opposition parties, civil society meet in SA to plot strategy against King Mswati,” News24, 21 December 2022)


Four soldiers arrested for coup attempt

On 21 December, the government said that on 20 December, a coup attempt against President Adama Barrow had been foiled and four soldiers were arrested in connection with the same. The army was also searching for three other accomplices and no further details were revealed. (“Four soldiers arrested after alleged coup attempt in The Gambia,” Al Jazeera, 21 December 2022)

Navy officer arrested for alleged role in coup attempt

On 22 December, BBC reported a government statement accusing navy officer Lance Corporal Sanna Fadera of attempting a coup on 21 December. The statement outlined that the loyalist troops were still looking for two suspected accomplices. In a related development, the police detained the main opposition party, the United Democratic Party’s (UDP) campaign manager for a TikTok video wherein he said President Adama Barrow would be overthrown before the 2023 local government elections. The UDP called for the immediate release of the party official claiming that the video was edited, and also condemned the coup attempt. (“Gambia navy officer behind failed coup bid - government,” BBC, 22 December 2022)


Armed group coalition withdraws from 2015 agreement 

On 22 December, a coalition of armed groups, the Permanent Strategic Framework for Peace, Security and Development (CSP-PSD), announced its withdrawal from the 2015 agreement which was signed to restore peace in northern Mali where rebels wanted to breakaway region. The agreement was signed between the former civilian government and the rebels. However, the CSP-PSD believes that there is an “absence of political will of the transitional authorities to implement [the peace accord]” and said it would return to negotiations only if a neutral country mediates. The agreement aimed at the decentralisation of Mali, integration of former rebels into the armed forces, and boosting the economy in the north. (“Armed groups in northern Mali pull out of Algiers peace talks,” Al Jazeera, 22 December 2022)


At least 17 people killed in Boko Haram attack

On 24 December, a local militia group said that at least 17 herders were killed in Boko Haram attack in Mafa district. The militia leader said: “Seventeen herders were killed in the fight and all their cattle taken away. The herders put resistance but were outgunned and outnumbered by the attackers, who had better weapons.” Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have been carrying out frequent attacks on herders, farmers and loggers, accusing them of spying on them for the military and the local anti-jihadist militia. (“Boko Haram kill 17 herders in northeastern Nigerian state of Borno,” Africanews, 26 December 2022)

Ivory Coast: 11 sentenced to life in prison for Grand-Bassam attack in 2016

On 27 December, eleven people were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for an Islamist attack wherein 19 people were killed at the Grand-Bassam beach area in 2016; the attack was carried out by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Of the 19 victims, 11 were Ivorians, four were French, and the rest were German, Lebanese, Macedonian and Nigerian.  The trial of the 18 defendants began in November and seven of them have been found guilty and the court awarded the families of the victims different compensations up to USD 81,000. Meanwhile, the suspected mastermind of the attack, Kounta Dallah, has not been found. (“Eleven sentenced to life in prison for 2016 Ivory Coast beach attack,” France24, 28 December 2022)


Death toll from tanker explosion climbs to 27 

On 29 December, the Gauteng Department of Health said the death toll from the gas tanker explosion reached 27, including 10 health workers of the Tambo Memorial Hospital. The explosion took place on 24 December when the gas tanker was stuck under a bridge; the explosion destroyed property, including the roof of the hospital’s emergency ward. On 28 December, the truck driver who was arrested for alleged culpable homicide was released due to lack of evidence. (“South Africa tanker explosion death toll jumps to 27,” Reuters, 29 December 2022)


Ethiopia: Eritrean troops withdrawing from Tigray

On 30 December, an Ethiopian official told Reuters agency that Eritrean forces, who fought alongside Ethiopian federal forces against Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in Tigray region, are pulling out of Two big towns towards the border. Meanwhile, Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel said that he could neither confirm nor deny the information. TPLF hasn't commented on the reports. The reports of the withdrawal comes after a TPLF official’s comment that the ceasefire will not be complete till Eritrean forces remain on the ground. (“Ethiopia says Eritrean troops withdrawing from Tigray,” Al Jazeera, 30 December 2022)

Burkina Faso: Minister denies allocating mine to Wagner Group

On 20 December, Minister of Mines Pierre Boussim said no mines had been allocated to the Russian private military company Wagner Group. The development comes after neighbouring Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo remarked at the UN-Africa Leaders Summit the previous week that Burkina Faso had hired the Wagner Group and allocated a mine as a payment for its services. On 16 December, while Burkina Faso did not dismiss or confirm the same, it expressed its disapproval over Akufo-Addo’s remarks by summoning the Ghanian ambassador. (“Burkina Faso denies paying Russia’s Wagner group with mine rights,” Al Jazeera, 21 December 2022)

Horn of Africa: Drought places over 20 million children at the risk of hunger

On 21 December, UNICEF said 20.2 million children across Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia are at the risk of severe hunger, thirst and disease, indicating a doubling from the 10 million in July. Of this, two million children need immediate help to address severe acute malnutrition. The development comes as the region is suffering a deadly drought, which has resulted in water insecurity among 27 million people, displaced two million and has had 2.7 million children drop out of school. The situation is resulting in child labour, child marriages, female genital mutilation (FGM), gender-based violence and sexual abuse. (“Horn of Africa faces most severe drought in more than two generations – UNICEF,” UN News, 22 December 2022)


 EU urges Kigali to stop supporting M23 rebel group

On 30 December 2022, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell called on Rwanda to halt support to the M23 rebel group operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s eastern region. Borrell said the EU wants Rwanda to “stop supporting the M23 and use all means to press the M23 to comply with the decisions taken by the EAC [East African Community]” in November. The EU also requested DRC’s neighbouring countries to “to prevent the provision of any support to armed groups active in the DRC.” (“EU calls on Rwanda to stop supporting M23 rebels in DR Congo,” Al Jazeera, 30 December 2022)

Burkina Faso: Government orders UN official to leave country

On 23 December, Burkina Faso government ordered UN resident coordinator Barbara Manzi to leave immediately declaring “persona non grata.” Foreign Minister Olivia Rouamba said that recent statements by the UN warning the surging Islamist insurgency threat in the country had discredited Burkina Faso and limited potential investors. The insurgency has left nearly two million people displaced and prompted two military coups within a year. (“Burkina Faso tells UN country chief to leave,” BBC, 23 December 2022)

Deportation of migrants to Rwanda is lawful, says UK High Court

On 19 December, the UK High Court ruled that the government's proposal to deport migrants to Rwanda is lawful and that it did not violate the UN Refugee Convention or other human rights laws. The UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the government had always been confident about the policy and would now focus on implementing it at the earliest. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak termed the ruling a “common sense position” that “the vast majority of the British public" desired. However, the Labour Party said the policy was “unworkable” and “unethical.” (“Rwanda migrant plan is lawful, High Court rules,” BBC, 20 December 2022)

Nigeria: Germany returns looted artefacts

On 20 December, Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock handed 22 artefacts looted from Nigeria in the nineteenth century. The return of the Benin Bronzes is followed by a deal signed last year between the two countries agreeing to transfer more than 1,000 artefacts. Baerbock said that the return was part of efforts to deal with a “dark colonial history.” Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed said: “Twenty years ago, even 10 years ago, nobody could have anticipated these bronzes returning to Nigeria,because the obstacles to achieving repatriation were seemingly insurmountable.” (“Benin Bronzes: Germany returns looted artefacts to Nigeria,” BBC, 20 December 2022)

About  the authors

Anu Maria Joseph is a Research Assistant at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Apoorva Sudhakar is a Research Associate at NIAS. 

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