Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa
Former African Union (AU) Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma came in second – but also not without baggage – and was closely followed by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe.
Radebe was the most trusted among the three, although the roundtable discussion included in the report, titled In Search of a Leader Befitting the Aspirations of South Africans, took place early in February – before it came to light that he had exchanged sexually suggestive SMSes with a female presidency staff member in 2014.
The participants were “mainly academics, professionals, people in business and civil society”.
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Ramaphosa was hailed as “a person wealthy enough not to be tempted to dip his hand in the cookie jar; understands business and will thus boost investor confidence; has an understanding of labour issues; and his involvement in the Convention for a Democratic SA negotiations put him in high standing”.
However, the participants also cautioned that he could “promote the capitalist agenda and would not pay much attention to the plight of the poor, and [would concentrate] on high-level strategic matters, thus neglecting local economic focus”, and that the “Marikana massacre is still his albatross”.
Feedback from participants also showed that Ramaphosa was seen to have an “interest in government business” and that he was not actively championing the interests of young people.
The report said South Africa was ready for a female president, which would work in Dlamini-Zuma’s favour as she was also the first female chairperson of the AU Commission.
The report stated that some of the participants felt that “she cannot be judged for her alliance to her former husband”.
“Her sterling performance at the department of home affairs and at foreign affairs is seen as a feather in her cap,” it said.
But she was also “the first minister in democratic South Africa to [be involved in] a scandal”, said the document in reference to the Sarafina 2 saga.
There were also questions about her “performance at the AU, [and] what type of a leader she would be”.
“The feeling is that the presidency is not a dynasty to be passed from one family member to the next.
“The main concern is that she would be Mr Zuma’s proxy [and] the ‘Guptarisation’ of South Africa will continue unabated,” the report said, alluding to ongoing allegations that the politically connected Gupta family had used its proximity to Zuma to unfairly and irregularly gain government business.
Radebe was touted as a possibility for the ANC presidency as he is the longest-serving minister and has a legal background, as well as an understanding of basic human rights.
He has been at the forefront of government interventions and negotiations, and is regarded as “the voice of reason in government matters and he has no known corruption scandals”.
Ramaphosa scored 44% of the support, Dlamini-Zuma came in with 28.5% and Radebe got 24.5%.
ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, his predecessor Mathews Phosa, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu shared 2% of the votes, while 1% of the participants abstained.