Having helped carry the ANC across the finish line in elections earlier this month, despite South Africans' impatience with the party's persistent corruption, President Cyril Ramaphosa will now need to lead his party toward greater reform.
It's the essential first step toward reviving a moribund economy and restoring South Africans' faith in their future. The ANC's seemingly robust 57.5% win was its slimmest margin of victory in a national election since the end of apartheid. Without Ramaphosa's personal popularity - as a negotiator, organiser and businessman - the party would surely have done worse.
'Eskom of the future is already dead in the morgue' - energy expert
For too long, the ANC has corralled votes by effectively ring-fencing the privileges of the minority of South African workers with formal jobs. The toxic national consequences of that are glaringly evident in South Africa's notoriously weak educational system. The country spends more than 6% of GDP on it, a share as large as that of more developed nations. But while access to education has expanded, South African students perform dismally in international rankings - not least because teachers' unions embedded with the ANC have long resisted reform and accountability.
For South Africa's sake, such insider bargains need to stop. To provide the ANC's promised "better life for all," Ramaphosa should put his country before his party. If he does so, both may come out on top.