President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)
Anthony Butler, professor of political studies at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and author of a biography on Cyril Ramaphosa, believes that, despite the political rumour mill suggesting it as a possibility, the ANC is unlikely to remove him as president after the May 8 general elections.
Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema is credited as having given credence to the notion that the "fight back" faction of the ANC - seen to be aligned with former president Jacob Zuma and secretary general Ace Magashule - which is unhappy with Ramaphosa's reforms and government clean-up, will attempt to remove him at the ANC's national general council (NGC) in 2020.
The NGC is something of a mid-term conference, where members of the governing party convene to review policy and the implementation of national conference resolutions, as well as to discuss and debate strategic organisational and political issues facing the party.
Addressing members of the Cape Town Press Club at Kelvin Grove on Thursday, Butler - who is launching a revised edition of his biography on Ramaphosa - took the audience on a short tour through the rise of Ramaphosa to his current role as ANC and state president.
Butler also explained why he thought the scenario, as laid out by Malema, was unlikely to materialise.
The first reason why Butler believes the ouster of Ramaphosa is unlikely is due to his popularity. The ANC's own research indicates that he is polled ahead of, and viewed more favourably among the electorate than, his own party.
"I don’t share the view that Ramaphosa will be removed if the ANC underperforms in these upcoming elections, in part because the polling evidence is so overwhelming that Ramaphosa is far more strongly supported than his party. It defies logic to argue he is responsible for any electoral shortfall that the ANC may suffer," he said.
An election conscious ANC would be, to Butler's understanding, hesitant to remove an individual in a way that would probably negatively impact on the future electoral fortunes of the party.
Another reason given by Butler relates to the balance of forces in the ANC. He said that it was evident, as early as February 2018, that the Ramaphosa faction of the ANC's national executive council (NEC) had the majority when they forced former president Jacob Zuma to vacate the office of the president.
"If it [the Zuma faction] hadn’t been decisively defeated and its grip on power not decisively destroyed, Zuma would not have been forced out of office. There was no reason to leave, other than that he faced the ultimate humiliation of being voted out by his own parliamentary caucus," Butler stated.
City Press previously reported Malema as having claimed that Ramaphosa’s "wishy-washy" stance on the ANC’s resolutions, including expropriation of land without compensation, would be used as a basis to remove him at the party’s NGC in June next year.
Malema said at the time that an internal rebellion against Ramaphosa was brewing within the ANC.
"The reality of the situation is that Ramaphosa won’t finish his term. The man is stuck. If [he] dares remove people from the list, they are working on the ground and they are talking to branches. The NGC will take place in June. He won’t come back. I can tell you now," Malema prophesied.
Ramaphosa has since rubbished Malema's claims, calling them "fables", News24 reported.
According to Timeslive, Ramaphosa said that Malema was just like those who had said he was going to lose at the ANC conference in Nasrec, where he was elected president.
"There are fables, all sorts of fables, as there were fables as we were going to Nasrec, saying 'that one is history he will never win and is going to be crushed'.
"There are many fables around town, but what we do is to carry on with the work we have been given by our conference, that is all that guides me."