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Ramaphosa "Weakened" Ahead of ANC Vote - Analysts

FILE: South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses delegates at the Olive Convention Centre in Durban, on July 24, 2022. - The 9th annual Kwazlu-Natal Provincial conference elected pro Zuma leaders, which is seen as a setback for SRamaphosa.

With less than two months to go until the African National Congress gathers to elect a leader, President Cyril Ramaphosa appears weakened as he seeks to retain the helm of South Africa's fractured ruling party.

With the ANC conference looming, commentators agree Ramaphosa stands a reasonable chance of staying on as leader of the ANC.

However, they say he is "not in the strongest position, but still likely to win the race due to the lack of a stronger (rival)," said Pearl Mncube, an analyst at Frontline Africa Advisory, a Pretoria-based political risk advisory firm.

"Groups opposing Ramaphosa have heavily weaponized the scandal (and) the economic woes facing the country," Mncube said.

Ramaphosa's opponents within the ANC have found fodder in the cash scandal that emerged in June.

The president is accused of hiding from police and tax authorities a 2020 break-in and cash heist from his farmhouse in the northern province of Limpopo.

But Mncube added "despite criticisms... he still enjoys significant support within the party."

Political analyst Eusebius McKaiser said Ramaphosa would "probably be okay".

"But the degree of certainty has dropped and the reason for that is - although he is clearly still the frontrunner -- his credibility (has been) dented."

Susan Booysen, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, agreed that "there is still a pretty good chance that Ramaphosa will make it."

A few candidates have thrown their names in the ring to be the leader of the ANC.

Chief among them is Ramaphosa's former health minister Zweli Mkhize, 66, who quit government last year amid allegations he diverted Covid funds. He has denied the accusations.

Senior cabinet minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, 73, the former chairwoman of the African Union Commission and Zuma's ex-wife, who narrowly lost to Ramaphosa in the last vote more than four years ago, is another name being touted.

But analysts say Ramaphosa, a one-time favorite of anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, remains the most attractive candidate.

Political analyst Eusebius McKaiser said "But the degree of certainty has dropped and the reason for that is -- although he is clearly still the frontrunner -- his credibility (has been) dented."

Former President Jacob Zuma launched an unprecedented broadside against Ramaphosa at the weekend, accusing him of corruption and treason -- an attack whose timing was seen as a deliberate move to smear his successor.

McKaiser dismissed the diatribe as "the rant of someone desperate to be an influencer" and said it was unlikely to shape the outcome of the election.

"Zuma's influence is less than what he thinks it is," he said.