Bloemfontein, South Africa: South African president Jacob Zuma scored a thumping victory in an African National Congress leadership contest Tuesday, opening the way for him to lead Africa’s largest economy until 2019.
Zuma won 2,983 votes out 3,977 votes cast at a party conference in Bloemfontein, making him the odds-on favourite to retain the presidency after 2014 general elections.
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said polls closed shortly after 7.00am local time and the results were tentatively expected by midday.
Zuma had been challenged by deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who has run a largely silent campaign that has sometimes appeared more like a protest than a real run at the top office in the country.
General elections will be held in 2014 and despite public anger at the state of the country, the ANC is likely to romp home.
It has consistently received around two thirds of the vote in previous elections since the end of apartheid.
A TNS South Africa poll released on Monday showed Motlanthe’s approval ratings at 70%, while Zuma polled 52%—less than the ANC’s total in the last elections.
“Motlanthe’s campaign to simply leave things up to the will of the delegates seems to have failed,” said Peter Attard Montalto, an analyst with Japanese bank Nomura. “It is now clear that he did not accept some deal to remain in the top six with Zuma. This is of course a great shame but a consequence of his lack of campaign style and those who have associated themselves with him.”
The winner was chosen by the ANC’s roughly 4,000 senior members, who are gathered in the central city of Bloemfontein for a quinquennial party conference.
As Motlanthe’s name was read out to the 4,000-plus ANC delegates gathered for the conference in Bloemfontein, there were cheers, some boos and rival motioning and singing.
Since taking control of the party in 2007, Zuma has been embroiled in a series of scandals, prompting some members of the ANC to call for a leadership change.
Criticism of his administration reached a crescendo earlier this year when police killed 34 striking miners in one day and it emerged that around $27 million of taxpayers’ money had been used to refurbish his private home.
Thanks to the ANC’s insuperable electoral advantage, a Zuma win opens the door to him staying in power until 2019. AFP