President Jacob Zuma. Picture: THE TIMES
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: THE TIMES

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has welcomed the prospect of working with businessman Cyril Ramaphosa as his deputy, saying "it would not be the first time" that he has worked with the man who was once tipped to take over from Nelson Mandela as president of the African National Congress (ANC).

Mr Zuma is set to be re-elected to lead the ANC at the party’s elective congress in Mangaung later this month. However, his current deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe — who has been nominated by three provinces and the youth league for the position of party president — is likely to lose out to Mr Ramaphosa.

Mr Ramaphosa has garnered more than 1,800 nominations for the position of deputy president, while Mr Motlanthe has received about 160 nominations to retain his current position in the party.

In an interview with the UK’s Daily Telegraph published on Thursday, Mr Zuma praised Mr Ramaphosa when asked about the prospect of working with the business tycoon.

"It would not be the first time I worked with Cyril Ramaphosa. When he was the secretary-general, I was his deputy. So it would not be the first time, if he is elected," Mr Zuma told the paper.

He said that he was ready for a second term as president of the ANC.

The party’s elective conference in Mangaung will also be keenly watched by business — with the hope that economic policy will be clarified.

One of the burning issues up for possible debate is that of nationalisation of South Africa’s mines. Mr Zuma told the paper that the party would increase the pace of economic reform but would not "break" existing businesses to do so.

"Nationalisation is not the ANC policy," he said. "There are fundamental issues that need to be dealt with. It would be useful to do it quickly but we’ve got to balance things because we don’t want to break things in order to move forward."