South African President Won’t Accept Third ANC Leader Term

JOHANNESBURG (Capital Markets in Africa) – South African President Jacob Zuma said he won’t accept a nomination for a third term as head of the country’s ruling party, which is “ready” for a woman to take over the leadership.

The 105-year-old African National Congress will choose a new president at a national conference in December when Zuma’s term ends. His ex-wife and the outgoing African Union chairwoman, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa are seen as frontrunners for the position.  The next national election is in 2019 and having served two terms, Zuma will be required by law to step down.

While stopping short of supporting either candidate, Zuma, 74, said it won’t be a “concern” for his family if his ex-wife were chosen. Any candidate can contest the election and the position won’t automatically go to his deputy, Zuma said in an interview broadcast on state-owned Motsweding FM radio Thursday.

“I have done my two terms,” said Zuma, who served as deputy president of the ANC before becoming the party’s top leader in 2007 and the nation’s president 18 months later. “Democratically, there is nothing that says that once you are the deputy president that it’s a foregone conclusion” that person will become president of the party, he said.

‘Hornets’ Nest’
“These statements do point to the president showing an initial preference for his former wife to succeed him,” Daniel Silke, director of the Political Futures Consultancy in Cape Town, said by phone on Friday. “He opens a hornets’ nest within the ANC by showing even a modicum of favoritism. By entering the succession fray, even in this limited way, he flouts an intention by other party leaders to keep the race under wraps until much later in the year.”

Zuma said South Africa is doing all it can to stave off a credit-rating downgrade and the government doesn’t regard the rating companies as “the enemy.” S&P Global Ratings affirmed South Africa’s BBB- assessment, the lowest investment-grade level, in December with a negative outlook after a year of political turmoil and near-zero growth. Fitch Ratings Ltd. revised the outlook on its BBB- rating to negative in November.

“It just happened that economic growth was slowing in the country and there were some things that happened that attracted more attention towards South Africa,” he said. “The rating agencies were just doing their job. What was important was that when they came, they were able to talk to all sectors. Business, workers and government spoke in one voice.”

The central bank forecast expansion of 0.4 percent in 2016, which would be the slowest since a 2009 recession.

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