South Africa Risk Outlook: nationalisation to become a political football – By Robert Besseling, Senior Africa Forecaster Exclusive Analysis
As frontrunner, President Jacob Zuma is likely to face Vice President Kgalema Motlanthe and Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale in his bid for re-election as president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Whoever wins the election to be held at the ANC’s conference at Manguang in December 2012 will also be the ANC’s presidential candidate for (and likely victor of) the 2014 national elections. We assess that President Zuma would face a difficult re-election process within the ANC if Sexwale, the weakest candidate, chooses to endorse Motlanthe.
Nationalisation of mining, steel production and the petro-chemicals is likely to be the most significant policy debate ahead of and during the Manguang conference. But there is little likelihood that nationalisation will be implemented in the next five years due to a lack of senior political support for it. The influential ANC youth league is in favour, but none of the ANC’s leadership candidates have come out in support of nationalisation. The ANC itself has rejected the economic feasibility of nationalisation and expelled from its party the ANC Youth League leader who championed it. COSATU (the umbrella body for the unions, the ANC’s key ally and potential kingmaker), is split on the issue with its largest union of mineworkers in favour but the second largest union of metalworkers against. Moreover, the ANC will be unwilling to forego a sizeable tax base in exchange for strategic ownership and instead will seek higher revenue via export, local content and local price constraints.
Threats to our forecast that nationalisation is unlikely are a protracted leadership battle and continued pressure on President Zuma to face corruption charges. Nationalisation is likely to be used for political gain should no clear winner emerge in the early stages of the conference. Candidates are likely to obfuscate their stance on nationalisation to gain support of key constituencies. A further risk is that if re-elected, President Zuma could use the nationalisation debate to distract attention from corruption investigations that are hanging over him and to secure the support of allies in doing so.
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