16 December 2012

South Africa: ANC to Choose Next Leader

A decisive conference of the party opened yesterday December 16, 2012 at Mangaung.

South Africa's ruling African National Congress, ANC, yesterday, December 16, 2012 kicked off what promises to be a contentious party conference with President Jacob Zuma facing a leadership challenge from Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. The conference is holding in Mangaung or Bloemfontein, capital of the Free State Province.

President Zuma opened proceedings with an address to the delegates on the current political landscape in South Africa. The Agence France Presse, AFP news agency said some 5,000 singing and dancing ANC members, clad in party colours and regalia descended on Manguang where the party was founded 100 years ago. The five-day conference will decide who leads South Africa until the end of the decade. Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe is hoping to wrest control of the party from Zuma. Should he succeed, the ANC's commanding electoral standing means he is almost certain to become the country's next president in the 2014 elections.

The President is confident of winning a second term in spite of recent media coverage of his personal life and allegations that he misused public funds to renovate his private home. Motlanthe, who was nominated by three of South Africa's nine provinces, is hoping for a surprise victory. The other six provinces voted for President Zuma. The Deputy President only confirmed his candidacy last week. He also faces a challenge for his current position from Cyril Ramaphosa, an anti-Apartheid union leader. Results of the party leadership contest are expected later this week.

The ANC is expected to use the congress to shake off persistent accusations of corruption and infighting. The party is also lagging in delivering meaningful change in some areas for millions of South Africans as it promised when it came into power at the end of Apartheid in 1994. Lobbying behind the scenes is expected, as members try to ensure that their candidates get voted in, with the key positions being the president and vice-president, said Al Jazeera TV. At the 2007 ANC conference, Jacob Zuma ousted President Thabo Mbeki, creating rifts within the party. The ANC has run South Africa since the end of Apartheid in 1994 and still retains strong support among most South Africans.

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