Cyril Ramaphosa, anti-apartheid activist, businessman and senior politician, has been elected head of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) in a closely contested ballot. Ramaphosa takes over a party that has been battered by scandal, torn by division and is increasingly unpopular, but if anyone is capable of putting the ANC house in order, it is he. Unfortunately, the ANC leadership remains divided, and he may not have the support he needs to implement the changes that are necessary.

The ANC has ruled South Africa since the end of the apartheid era. The euphoria that greeted that historical transition has worn off, and the ANC has proven that it is not immune to the temptations of power. The tenure of President Jacob Zuma has been especially turbulent, with scandals breaking out with disheartening regularity. The president has been charged with nearly 20 counts of criminal activity, casting a pall over his administration. Last week's ANC leadership vote selected the person who will succeed Zuma as South Africa's president if the ANC prevails — as expected — in a presidential ballot in 2019. (Voters select a party, which then selects the person for the post.)

Ramaphosa defeated Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a senior party activist, who has served as minister of health, foreign affairs and home affairs under three different presidents. She is more radical in ideology than Ramaphosa, and perhaps more importantly, is the ex-wife of the current president. It is widely believed that Zuma would prefer her to succeed him since she is expected to do more to protect him from the consequences of those charges.