President Zuma on the Back Foot (Again), but Replacement Remains Uncertain

With online opposition growing, the race among likely successors remains tight

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Predata signals tracking online interest around potential Zuma successors Link to Predata signal

Having survived the meeting of the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) on May 26-28 where his removal was discussed, President Zuma probably hoped for a respite. The respite, however, turned out to be very brief as questions about his competency and probity forcibly resurfaced in early June.


  • The weak performance of the economy under Zuma’s leadership was highlighted by the June 6 announcement by Statistics South Africa that the economy had entered its second recession in eight years.
  • The steady flow of leaked e-mails on the Gupta family’s ties to the South African government rekindled calls for a full investigation by the South African Public Protector into long-standing allegations that the Gupta family was essentially looting the South African government through its close connection with the Zuma family.
  • The Chairman of Eskom, South Africa’s state power utility, resigned on June 12 amidst widespread allegations of financial misconduct by the company’s leadership.  

Predata’s tracking of digital attention to pro- and anti-Zuma groups and individuals (see below) indicates that, in the wake of the late May NEC decision, attention to the anti-Zuma forces has increased while that for the pro-Zuma camp has continued to decline. With the Constitutional Court decision on June 22 clearing the way for another no-confidence vote in Parliament, this pattern could suggest that the ANC might have more difficulty in holding the party line in this vote (particularly if a secret ballot is conducted), but the current digital pattern is similar to that in November 10, 2016 when Zuma last survived a no-confidence vote.

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As Zuma faced renewed pressure, the race to replace him as ANC president heated up. In June the elements of the ANC who support Zuma continued to line up behind the candidacy of former AU President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to replace her former husband in December. Predata’s signals on potential successors to President Zuma (see below) suggest, however, that her candidacy has not benefited from these endorsements and that attention to her candidacy continues to lag that of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

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Uncertainty around Zuma's ability to hold onto power and line up his favored successor persists as a key driver of political market risk in South Africa. Predata's signals that anticipate large and unexpected downward moves in the Dollar-Rand cross have risen to their highest levels since late March. Following Pravin Gordhan's ouster as Finance Minister at the end of March, the Rand tumbled

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