South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a leading contender to become head of the ruling ANC in December, has named science and technology minister Naledi Pandor as his running mate, local media reported on Sunday.
The race to replace President Jacob Zuma at the helm of the African National Congress is heating up amid mounting allegations of graft against Zuma, who consistently denies wrongdoing. His successor will be the ANC’s presidential candidate in 2019, when Zuma will step down as head of state.
Ramaphosa has been under pressure to pick a female running mate as gender equality is a key ANC policy goal and his main challenger is Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a veteran politician, former African Union head and Zuma’s ex-wife.
Eyewitness News and the Mail & Guardian newspaper reported on their websites that Ramaphosa made the announcement that Pandor would be the ANC deputy presidential candidate on his ticket during a rally in the northern province of Limpopo.
“It’s a smart move. Pandor’s smart and she does not appear tainted by any corruption allegation nor is she close to either the Zuma or Ramaphosa camps. And as a woman, she ticks a number of boxes that make a lot of sense,” said Gary van Staden, a political analyst with NKC African Economics.
Pandor is an articulate technocrat with a professorial manner who has also done a stint as education minister. Her spokesman could not immediately confirm the reports and said Pandor was travelling to Jordan for a science conference.
Ramaphosa’s camp could not immediately be reached for comment.