Who trusts the new deputy president?

Will South Africa’s new Deputy President, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, do a better job than her troubled predecessor, Jacob Zuma?

According to a recent ACNielsen telephonic survey, the results of which were released on Wednesday, many South Africans have faith in her.

“Despite her name still being relatively unknown among the general public, it is firmly believed that our new deputy president will improve on the performance of her predecessor,” an ACNielsen statement said.

Almost 70% of the 200 South Africans polled from diverse demographic groups said they believe that Mlambo-Ngcuka will carry out her role more effectively than did Zuma, with only 13% maintaining that she will not.

Nikki Quinn, director of marketing information provider ACNielsen’s customised research division, said “confidence in the abilities of the new deputy president seems to have arisen despite a general lack of awareness about her”.

Eighty-two percent of respondents claimed to know who their new deputy president is, but when questioned further, only 57% actually knew her name.

Black respondents fared best, with more than three-quarters correctly knowing Mlambo-Ngcuka’s name, comparison with more than half the white respondents, and only 28% and 46% of coloured and Indian groups respectively.

Less than a third of respondents knew that Mlambo-Ngcuka previously held the position of minister of minerals and energy, and more than half claimed to have expected another candidate to have been appointed to this high-profile post.

When questioned about the president’s reasons for his selection, 62% of respondents said they believe that one of the drivers behind Thabo Mbeki’s choice was that he wants a woman to succeed him in 2009. The majority of respondents also maintained that Mbeki did not abuse the recent situation to get rid of a less-preferred successor.

Overall, respondents score Mlambo-Ngcuka’s potential for performance of her new role at seven out of 10, on a scale where one is considered “poor” and 10 is “excellent”.

Black respondents were particularly confident in her abilities, with the white group coming in slightly behind them.

“Coloured and Indian respondents, while not lacking in confidence, are slightly more guarded in their responses. The most part of these two groups ranks the deputy president’s potential at around the five-out-of-10 mark,” commented Quinn.

Women displayed more confidence in Mlambo-Ngcuka than did men, with nearly half the female respondents rating her future performance at eight out of 10 and above.

Eighty percent of the population trusts that in her new position, the deputy president will improve South Africa’s image to the rest of the world.

Quinn said this belief traverses racial, gender and regional barriers, and that “regardless of her being a somewhat unexpected appointment, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka certainly seems to have the overwhelming support of most South Africans in her new position as the country’s deputy president”.

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