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Emphatic victory for ANC's reform agenda

Against the background of intimidating headwinds, including low economic growth, load shedding and a vociferous and retrogressive RET faction, Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa’s victory at the ANC’s elective conference can certainly be described as emphatic.

Much of the reaction to the ANC’s 55th national conference, held at Nasrec at the end of December, has been characterised by vigorous analysis of the factional representation in the newly elected national executive committee (NEC).

For purposes of clarity on these factions, it may be useful to name them. The “reformist” group, which supports Pres Cyril Ramaphosa’s stated intention to incentivise greater private sector investment in the economy and to combat corruption, easily won the day during the elections at the conference.

The so-called “radical economic transformation – RET” group, suffered a significant setback in the final outcome of the NEC membership elections. The NEC has 87 members, consisting of the ANC’s top-seven leaders and 80 additional elected members.

Huge support for reformists

Estimates amongst political analysts of Ramaphosa’s support in the new NEC range from 68% to 80%, with the difference explained by persons who have not been outspoken enough about their allegiance to either faction.

Members of the RET faction and even current members of the cabinet have recently been guilty of unsubstantiated attacks on the rule of law. In the case of Lindiwe Sisulu, then acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo publicly expressed how horrified he was that Sisulu "questioned the rule of law" - despite the fact that she had taken an oath to protect the Constitution.

A common fear amongst several members of the RET group is the possibility of prosecution for charges flowing from the Zondo Commission report into state capture. Little doubt exists that the National Prosecuting Agency (NPA) will start expediting the recommendations contained in the Zondo Commission’s report, which may prevent the RET group from forming unified resistance to Pres. Ramaphosa’s reform agenda.

One of the main and obvious conclusions arrived at during the elective conference was the extent of the divide between reformists and RET members. Unfortunately, the election processes were delayed by disjointed logistics and vote canvassing, ultimately dragging on beyond the allotted time-frame. As a result, the traditional conference declaration, policy commission reports and resolutions were postponed to 5 January, when a hybrid conference is due to take place in Mangaung, Free State.

Speculation is rife over major changes to the post-conference cabinet, which will probably be announced shortly after the conclusion of the hybrid conference.

According to seasoned political analyst Justice Malala, the scope of the victory at Nasrec provides Pres. Ramaphosa with the ability to move extremely swiftly with reforms in 2023.

Expressing his delight at Pres. Ramaphosa getting the upper hand over the perpetrators of state capture, Tim Cohen, business editor at Daily Maverick, has described him as a great tactician that possesses the following characteristics: patience, resilience and a very intense, strategic intellect.

Market reaction

It was no surprise that capital markets shared the relief of the victory for a reformist ANC agenda, as witnessed by a sharp drop in South Africa’s long-term bond yield and a significant strengthening of the rand.

According to presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya, Pres. Ramaphosa was "energised" after his victory. Hopefully, this energy will soon be channeled into renewed vigour towards market-friendly reforms and the appointment of persons in key cabinet posts and national departments that share Pres. Ramaphosa’s intention for closer cooperation with the private sector.

Deregulation and public-private partnerships should make it possible for government to harness the inherent superiority of the private sector in the areas of innovation, initiative, project management and value added in the economy. Initially, the key focus will be on restoring the integrity and functionality of the country’s network industries – energy, roads, rail and harbours.

The date of South Africa’s next general election is looming large. Pres. Ramaphosa is smart enough to realise that higher economic growth and employment creation, together with a relentless drive to infuse the electricity grid with renewable energy, will go a long way to securing renewed faith in government’s economic policies.

Picture: Rejoice Ndlovu/Eyewitness News

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