ANC elective conference – what are the odds?

December 15th, 2017 by Brian Kantor

The markets have been recording their judgements about the outcome of the battle to succeed President Jacob Zuma as leader of the ANC to be decided over the next few days. The prospects of Cyril Ramaphosa succeeding has been recorded in the degree of rand strength versus its emerging market peers. As we show in figure 1 below, the rand weakened in response to the appointment of Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba in March and weakened further after he presented his mini-Budget statement in October. Since then, and despite a very critical report from the credit rating agencies and a downgrade, the rand has recovered strongly – in an important relative sense – and not only versus the US dollar.

The same improvement in sentiment is revealed in the market for US dollar-denominated RSA bonds. As we show in figure 2, the spread between the interest rate yield on five-year RSA bonds and five-year US Treasury bonds that offers compensation for extra SA risks of default, has also narrowed from 2.2% in early November to about 1.8% on 14 December.

A still more direct measure of the probabilities of one or other candidate being first past the post is provided by online sportsbook operator Sportingbet (

When their books first opened the odds on the various potential candidates – or those not yet identified were as shown below. The favourite was Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma with a 42% chance of winning (1/2.4) while Cyril Ramaphosa was given only a 27% probability of winning, less than the chances of Zweli Mkhize.

The decimal odds are now as shown below. Ramaphosa is the firm favourite, given a 57% chance of winning compared to a 33% chance for his closest rival Dlamini-Zuma. The odds on any other outcome have blown out.

The volume or value of bets cast is not disclosed, but we are informed by Sportingbet that 65% of the bets and 61% of the stakes have been cast for Ramaphosa, while 21% of the bets have been placed on Dlamini-Zuma and a larger proportion (36%) of the stakes cast for her. These books will close on Saturday 16 December and we are informed by the firm, who describe themselves as operator of South Africa’s largest online sportsbook:

“Unfortunately, as part of our trading risk management policy, and as a company policy, we never disclose amounts wagered, numbers of bets, or users on any single event. I can share however that considering it’s a “novelty” (or non-sporting event) market, the bet activity and interest on this is impressive. “

There is a great deal at stake for the economy in the ANC race for the top. Clearly, judged by the markets and the odds and the politically savvy involved, there are no certain outcomes. Were therefore the favourite to win and the more decisive the victory, the stronger the rand and the lower the risk spreads – and so the chances of a strong SA economic recovery. Perhaps something those casting their votes might bear in mind. 15 December 2017