South Africa: Ramaphosa’s Moment

South Africa: Ramaphosa’s Moment

The votes have now been counted, and it's clear that Cyril Ramaphosa, leader of the African National Congress (ANC), will continue to serve as South Africa's president. But this time he'll lead with a mandate sealed by South Africa's voters following the first national election victory for the African National Congress (ANC) under his leadership.

What sets Ramaphosa apart from other South African leaders, and what is he now up against?


  • Ramaphosa has succeeded in many roles: Born in 1952, Ramaphosa spent the 1970s as an anti-apartheid activist and the 1980s as the union-man who led the largest mining strike in South Africa's history. He later served as Nelson Mandela's chief negotiator in the talks that ended apartheid in 1994. Frustrated by his inability to advance within the ANC, he left politics in 1997 to become one of South Africa's most successful businessmen.
  • He speaks to a broad audience: Ramaphosa has a formidable skillset. He speaks all 11 of South Africa's official languages—English, Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, Afrikaans, Siswati, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga—and his diplomatic skills have earned him a global reputation. He served as one of two international arms inspectors helping to disarm the Irish Republican Army as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.
  • His path to power has taken twists and turns: When ANC insiders pressured Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first post-apartheid president, to pass over Ramaphosa to choose Thabo Mbeki as his deputy and designated successor, a disappointed Ramaphosa spurned Mandela's government to pursue a seat in parliament. As chairman of South Africa's constitutional assembly, he played the lead role in drafting the country's post-apartheid constitution.
  • His greatest battles have been fought within the ANC: Ramaphosa finally became South Africa's deputy president in 2014, but President Jacob Zuma refused to endorse him as his successor. In December 2017, fears within the ANC that Zuma's reputation for corruption would cost the party its hold on power led insiders to oust Zuma and replace him with Ramaphosa. In February 2018, South Africa's ANC-dominated parliament elected Ramaphosa the country's president.

This week, the ANC won a national election with Ramaphosa as its leader.

The president will face many challenges. To protect themselves and their interests against future corruption charges, Zuma and his allies within the ANC are actively working to undermine Ramaphosa's control of the party. Only if he can consolidate control of the ANC can he hope to meet the country's enormous challenges.

A quarter century after he helped end apartheid, Ramaphosa inherits the leadership of a country plagued with endemic corruption, a stagnant economy, high levels of violent crime, frequent electricity blackouts, and an unemployment rate of 27 percent. More than 64 percent of black South Africans still live in poverty. That's why the ANC has seen its vote share fall steadily with each new national election.

Cyril Ramaphosa has wanted this opportunity for 25 years. If he fails to persuade voters that he and the ANC can provide the security and prosperity they've promised, voters may finally decide that the party of liberation should no longer serve as the party of power.

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Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the omicron variant, the Honduras presidential election, and the pros and cons of getting stuck in a UK pub for three days in a snowstorm.

As the omicron variant emerges, is a return to lockdown next?

The answer is, only in a few play places, because people are exhausted from lockdowns. They're angry with their governments from doing it. Governments are going to be very reluctant to have the economic hit as a consequence, especially when they know they can't pay out the relief money that they've been paying over the last couple of years, and they're not yet sure about just how much of a danger omicron is. I think all sorts of travel restrictions, but unless and until you see that the spread starts leading to significant lethality, hospitalizations, and once again, the potential for ICUs to be overwhelmed, I do not expect many significant lockdowns that are countrywide at this point. Not least in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the populations are very young and as a consequence, you can have a lot of spread and they're not paying attention to it, frankly.

Will the Honduras presidential election have wider regional implications?

Just had this election. It looks like the first female president ever they're going to see win, Xiomara Castro, who is up by some 20 points. They are still saying, fake news, and they're challenging, they're contesting it. The big issue is what happens with immigration, and will this government be willing to work more closely with the Mexicans, with the Biden administration? Because after Mexico, the largest number of illegal immigrants picked up going across the wall, coming from Honduras to the United States. That's a big issue. Of all the countries in the region, El Salvador has been a disaster to work with. Guatemala has been a little easier. Honduras has been in between. Really, really tough to get enough support on the ground that you can try to limit what is enormously dangerous country and people just trying to get the hell out.

A snowstorm left dozens stuck in a pub for three days in the UK. Good time or great time?

Well, I don't know. I mean, most people I know in the UK would say getting stuck in a pub for a few days is an awesome time in the snow. You're not going to do anything anyway. It's not like you're working. You can work digitally, I know everybody's got their phones, so if they need to, they can, right? Who knows if they actually had streaming services at the pub. Apparently it was this Oasis tribute band. What could be better than that? Your wonderwall of snow. I don't know. I'm glad it wasn't me.

Eric Zemmour, presidential candidate for the 2022 election, speaks on French TV channel TF1.

Zemmour for president. After months of rising in opinion polls, far-right French polemicist Erich Zemmour has made it official: he’s running in next year’s French presidential election. Zemmour, who blames Muslims, liberals, elites, and the EU for what he sees as the decline and emasculation of France, says he is running in order to “prevent our children and our grandchildren from experiencing barbarity.” Could he win? Never say jamais these days, particularly as Zemmour has something of Donald Trump’s provocative star power and media savvy. Still, most polls show that while he could reach a second-round runoff against current President Emmanuel Macron, he would then lose decisively as moderates from across the political spectrum unite behind the incumbent. The more immediate political problem is for far-right stalwart Marine Le Pen who, in trying to broaden her appeal beyond the far right, now finds herself outflanked by the more unapologetically extreme Zemmour.

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Hard Numbers: China pledges jabs for Africa, Brazil burns boats, pub-bound Brits, billions without internet

1 billion: With the emergence of the (potentially dangerous) omicron variant in Southern Africa stoking fresh debate over vaccine hoarding in wealthy countries, China has announced it will deliver an additional 1 billion vaccine doses to the continent over the next three years.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Good morning everybody and I hope everyone is okay this Monday. I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving, those of you that celebrate. Of course, pretty difficult news over the weekend, and even this morning, the World Health Organization, referring to the new variant omicron of COVID as a very high global risk. And when I hear those words, obviously we get moving at Eurasia Group, a firm very much concerned about that. And indeed, this is in terms of new news about this pandemic that we've all been living with now for almost two years, this is some of the most concerning new headlines that we've seen thus far.

There are some things we know and some things we don't know, there are three things we need to know, if you want to really assess what the omicron risk represents for us and for the world: rates of infection, sickness and mortality and vaccine effectiveness. We only have strong answers about the first, which is we know that this is a lot more infectious as a variant than Delta has been, which itself was much more infectious than the original virus. And that is a very serious problem. I've spoken with a lot of the epidemiologists we know about this over the weekend, they're all extremely concerned about that.

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Don’t jump out the omicron window

With cases, and fears, of the new omicron variant spreading rapidly around the world, we sat down with Eurasia Group’s top public health expert, Scott Rosenstein, for a little perspective on what to worry about, what not to, and whether the pandemic will ever actually end.

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Watch Ian Bremmer's State of the World 2021 speech live on December 6

Join us on December 6th at 8 pm ET to hear Ian Bremmer's unique perspective on the most pressing geopolitical events shaping politics, business, and society in our "GZERO" world.

Ian's State of the World speech will examine:

  • Are the US and China engaged in a cold war?
  • How powerful have tech companies become on the global stage?
  • Is there hope for the world to unite to fight climate change and other shared challenges?

Watch live at https://www.gzeromedia.com/stateoftheworld

Ian Bremmer: State of the World 2021

December 6, 2021 8 pm ET

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Click here to watch Ian Bremmer's State of the World 2020 speech.

Also happening that week:

Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

5: Twitter’s stock jumped 5 percent Monday after CEO and cofounder Jack Dorsey announced he was leaving the company. Many say that Dorsey is ditching the social media giant to play a bigger role in the crypto world.

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Don’t jump out the omicron window

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