By: PETER DUBE
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma announced he would not stand for a third term, throwing the succession race open.
For skeptics, the reaction to the weekend declaration was “who said we wanted him to stand for another term?”
He has had arguably the most controversy-ridden tenures in office than any other post-apartheid presidents.
The Nkandla saga, in which his homestead was upgraded using taxpayers money, stands out as one of the most divisive disputes surrounding a South African head of state in the past 21 years.
The ANC and the South African public have been a little cautious when throwing around names of possible replacements for the man, popularly known as Msholozi.
His deputy, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa — almost an automatic candidate if ANC’s tradition is to carry on, faces stern challenge from the African Union Commission President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
And then, the Speaker of parliament, Ms Baleka Mbete, has her place as a dark horse in this race. Two other names that have been picked as options are Jeff Radebe and Zweli Mkhize.
So what are the strengths and the weaknesses of the two leading contenders?
That Mr Ramaphosa was anti-apartheid struggle icon Nelson Mandela’s ‘Chosen One’, speaks volumes of his capabilities.
He founded the giant National Union of Mineworkers, setting himself apart as a formidable leader in the struggle against apartheid.
“There were no unions in the mines at the time; if you went to the mines, you could be killed. He was a revolutionary in his heyday,” Mr Fidelis Tshabalala, a political analyst, told the media.
The former union leader also played a crucial role with Roelf Meyer of the National Party during the negotiations to bring about a peaceful end to apartheid and steer South Africa towards its first democratic elections in 1994.
Mr Ramaphosa’s appointment as President Zuma’s deputy last year was also received by businesspeople across the country, as a move that would restore confidence in the economy and coherence to policy implementation.
While some ANC stalwarts, who were once touted as presidential hopefuls like Tokyo Sexwale, went into business and forgot about politics, Mr Ramaphosa never totally divorced
However, he has been criticised for his business interests. Dr Dlamini built her reputation as an anti-apartheid activist before serving as a Cabinet minister.
She made history when she became the first woman to lead the African Union Commission as its chairperson.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma has benefited from good propaganda. She has developed a reputation of being a strong leader. Dr Dlamini-Zuma is not aloof to the masses.
“She was becoming a threat. You can’t contest against a woman in South Africa because anything you say sounds chauvinistic. It was always going to be difficult for Zuma to fight his former wife,” said Mr Tshabalala.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma also comes across as ‘controversy-free’ and takes no nonsense. Fighting for the presidency is not a battle one could wedge from outside the country.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION