South Africa’s ANC votes to elect successor for party leader Zuma

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, center, hugs front runner and Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, right, and President Jacob Zuma, left, at the start of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) elective conference in Johannesburg, Saturday, Dec. 16 2017. (AP)
Updated 18 December 2017
0

South Africa’s ANC votes to elect successor for party leader Zuma

JOHANNESBURG: Battle lines were drawn on Monday for South Africa’s ANC as voting began to elect a new leader to succeed President Jacob Zuma as head of a party that has ruled since the end of apartheid but faced scandals and corruption allegations.
The vote is perhaps the most pivotal moment for the ANC since it launched black-majority rule under Nelson Mandela’s leadership 23 years ago. With scandal and graft accusations having tainted Zuma’s presidency, the party is deeply divided.
Whoever emerges at the helm of the African National Congress, a 105-year-old liberation movement that dominates Africa’s most industrialized economy, is likely to become the country’s next president after elections in 2019.
A total of 4,776 delegates began casting their ballots in the early hours of Monday, the ANC said, to select between Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Zuma’s preferred candidate, his ex-wife and former cabinet minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Voting was still going on at 0400 GMT.
“Delegates are very exhausted,” an ANC source, who is a voting delegate, told Reuters. “I don’t know how they will run today’s sessions.”
Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma were the only candidates nominated for the ANC leadership at a conference in Johannesburg on Sunday night.
In a boost to Ramaphosa, courts ruled that officials from some provinces seen as supporting Dlamini-Zuma had been elected illegally and were barred from the conference.
The rand currency gained after that news on Friday, extending its gains to more than 2 percent on Sunday. .
“The rand is stronger on the likelihood of Cyril Ramaphosa being elected ANC head,” said Brett Birkenstock, a director at Overberg Asset Management. “The markets favor Ramaphosa and expect him to improve the economy.”
The currency, which is expected to be volatile until the new ANC leader is announced, had trimmed most of its gains early on Monday to trade 0.13 percent firmer at 13.0725 to the dollar by 0416 GMT, off an earlier 3-1/2-month high of 12.7300.
A winner had been expected to be announced on Sunday, but long delays led to the vote being pushed back repeatedly. It was not clear when the outcome would be announced.
On Saturday, Zuma announced plans to raise subsidies for tertiary colleges and universities, a move analysts said was timed to appeal to the party’s more populist members allied to Dlamini-Zuma, the first woman nominated as an ANC presidential candidate.
Zuma has faced allegations of corruption since he became head of state in 2009 but has denied any wrongdoing.
Ramaphosa, a former trade union leader who became a businessman and is now one of the richest people in South Africa, has vowed to fight corruption and revitalize the economy, a message hailed by foreign investors.
Dlamini-Zuma pledged during her campaign to tackle the racial inequality that has persisted since the end of white-minority rule.
Ramaphosa drew the majority of nominations from party branches scattered across the country. But the complexity of the leadership race makes it uncertain he will win the final count.
“The race is extremely close,” said Susan Booysen, a political analyst at the University of Witwatersrand’s School of Governance in Johannesburg.
“Before today we said Dlamini-Zuma could emerge as a winner. Even if there is a strong lead in terms of branch nominations by the Ramaphosa camp, it’s not clear-cut.”


Trump's missile treaty pullout could escalate tension with China

Updated 55 min 20 sec ago
0

Trump's missile treaty pullout could escalate tension with China

  • Trump earlier said US will pullout from a Cold War-era treaty with Russia on nuclear arms
  • China was not party to the treaty and has been fielding new and more deadly missile forces

WASHINGTON: A US withdrawal from a Cold War-era nuclear arms treaty with Russia could give the Pentagon new options to counter Chinese missile advances but experts warn the ensuing arms race could greatly escalate tensions in the Asia-Pacific.
US officials have been warning for years that the United States was being put at a disadvantage by China's development of increasingly sophisticated land-based missile forces, which the Pentagon could not match thanks to the US treaty with Russia.
President Donald Trump has signaled he may soon give the Pentagon a freer hand to confront those advances, if he makes good on threats to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which required elimination of short- and intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles.
Dan Blumenthal, a former Pentagon official now at the American Enterprise Institute, said a treaty pullout could pave the way for the United States to field easier-to-hide, road-mobile conventional missiles in places like Guam and Japan.
That would make it harder for China to consider a conventional first strike against US ships and bases in the region. It could also force Beijing into a costly arms race, forcing China to spend more on missile defenses.
"It will change the picture fundamentally," Blumenthal said.
Even as Trump has blamed Russian violations of the treaty for his decision, he has also pointed a finger at China. Beijing was not party to the INF treaty and has been fielding new and more deadly missile forces.
These include China's DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), which has a maximum range of 4,000 km (2,500 miles) and which the Pentagon says can threaten US land and sea-based forces as far away as the Pacific island of Guam. It was first fielded in 2016.
"If Russia is doing it (developing these missiles) and China is doing it and we're adhering to the agreement, that's unacceptable," Trump said on Sunday.
John Bolton, White House national security advisor, noted that recent Chinese statements suggest it wanted Washington to stay in the treaty.
"And that's perfectly understandable. If I were Chinese, I would say the same thing," he told the Echo Moskvy radio station. "Why not have the Americans bound, and the Chinese not bound?"
Growing threat
US officials have so far relied on other capabilities as a counter-balance to China, like missiles fired from US ships or aircraft. But advocates for a US land-based missile response say that is the best way to deter Chinese use of its muscular land-based missile forces.
Kelly Magsamen, who helped craft the Pentagon's Asian policy under the Obama administration, said China's ability to work outside of the INF treaty had vexed policymakers in Washington, long before Trump came into office.
But she cautioned that any new US policy guiding missile deployments in Asia would need to be carefully coordinated with allies, something that does not appear to have happened yet.
Mismanagement of expectations surrounding a US treaty pullout could also unsettle security in the Asia-Pacific, she cautioned.
"It's potentially destabilizing," she said.
Experts warn that China would put pressure on countries in the region to refuse US requests to position missiles there.
Abraham Denmark, a former senior Pentagon official under Obama, said Guam, Japan and even Australia were possible locations for US missile deployments.
"But there are a lot of alliance questions that appear at first glance to be very tricky," he cautioned.
Still, current and former US officials say Washington is right to focus on China's missile threat. Harry Harris, who led US military forces in the Pacific before becoming US ambassador to Seoul, said earlier this year that the United States was at a disadvantage.
"We have no ground-based (missile) capability that can threaten China because of, among other things, our rigid adherence ... to the treaty," Harris told a Senate hearing in March, without calling for the treaty to be scrapped.
Asked about Trump's comments, China's foreign ministry said a unilateral US withdrawal would have a negative impact and urged the United States to "think thrice before acting."
"Talking about China on the issue of unilaterally pulling out of the treaty is completely mistaken," spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.