(Bloomberg) -- Cyril Ramaphosa was elected unopposed as South Africa’s president by the National Assembly on Wednesday, while his deputy’s future was in doubt after claims from the ruling African National Congress of wrongdoing.
Ramaphosa, who has vowed to clean up the government after his predecessor Jacob Zuma’s scandal-marred nine-year rule, is due to name a new cabinet after his May 25 inauguration following the ANC’s election victory this month. Under the constitution, his deputy must be selected from the ranks of the 400 lawmakers in the National Assembly, meaning David Mabuza could be disqualified from the position.
A former schoolteacher, Mabuza, 58, was linked to a succession of scandals while he served as premier of the eastern Mpumalanga province, ranging from accusations that he helped to rig internal party votes and state tenders to having his opponents silenced and even assassinated. The allegations were described in a New York Times expose last year. Mabuza called the story “baseless” and has never been charged.
“On the face of it, this is very positive,” said Daryl Glaser, a politics professor at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. “Mabuza is a deeply compromised individual. This certainly gives Ramaphosa an opportunity to clean up his administration.”
Yet, the allegations that he has brought the party into disrepute are difficult to prove, and his decision to face the ruling party’s integrity commission could be part of a calculated move to strengthen him politically because he knows he will probably be cleared, said Mpumelelo Mkhabela, an independent political analyst.
“He can still be sworn in as an MP and he can still be appointed deputy president,” Mkhabela said. “I think if he is cleared, he will be more emboldened and powerful than he is now.”
Ramaphosa initially favored Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor or International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to be his deputy, but gave the post to Mabuza who won the deputy leadership of the ruling party in December 2017 and helped him secure the top post. Mabuza’s ineligibility would clear the way for Ramaphosa to appoint whoever he pleases.
Mabuza, who was due to be sworn in as lawmaker on Wednesday, asked to delay the process “in light of a report by the ANC Integrity Commission in which he is alleged to have prejudiced the integrity of the ANC and brought the organization into disrepute,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.
The ANC requested its integrity committee look into the suitability of all proposed lawmakers. While the body can make recommendations to the party, its decisions aren’t binding. Ramaphosa didn’t indicate what Mabuza was alleged to have done wrong.
The rand gained after the news, with the currency reversing an early decline and was 0.1 percent stronger at 14.3772 per dollar by 5:30 p.m. in Johannesburg.
The ANC also announced that Environment Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, who was to take up a senior position in parliament, withdrew her candidacy as a lawmaker due to family commitments. Mokonyane was accused in a judicial probe of taking bribes -- an allegation she denies.
Malusi Gigaba, finance minister for Zuma’s final 10 months as president and who the nation’s top court ruled had perjured himself, removed his name from the list of ANC legislators on Tuesday.
The moves are “an indication that the balance of power in the ANC has now clearly swung towards” Ramaphosa, said Dirk Kotze, a political science professor at the University of South Africa.
One possible contender for Mabuza’s post could be Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a minister in the presidency who narrowly lost the contest for the ANC leadership to Ramaphosa. Her appointment could help Ramaphosa unite the deeply divided party and quell criticism that he’s sidelining members who opposed him.
--With assistance from Tshegofatso Mokgabodi.
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