The fight for the leadership of South Africa’s ruling ANC is drawing to a close, with markets on edge for a result that will set the direction for the scandal-plagued party and the country.
As delegates cast the last few ballots, senior members built up battle lines on social media, backing either Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa or Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – a former cabinet minister and the ex-wife of President Jacob Zuma.
The vote is perhaps the most pivotal moment for deeply divided African National Congress since it launched black-majority rule under Nelson Mandela’s leadership 23 years ago.
Whoever emerges at the helm of the ANC, a 105-year-old liberation movement that dominates Africa’s most industrialised economy, is likely to become the country’s next president after elections in 2019.
“It is going to be very close,” a senior ANC source said. “Both camps have spreadsheets where they have calculated the number of delegates on their side. Both sides have different assumptions and guesswork.”
A total of 4776 delegates began casting their ballots in the early hours after the vote, planned for Sunday, was delayed.
Ramaphosa, a former trade union leader who became a businessman and is now one of the richest people in South Africa, has vowed to fight corruption and revitalise the economy, a message hailed by foreign investors.
Dlamini-Zuma – the current president’s preferred candidate – has pledged to tackle the racial inequality that has persisted since the end of white-minority rule.
They were the only candidates nominated for the ANC leadership at a conference in Johannesburg on Sunday night.
“Delegates are very exhausted,” an ANC source who is a voting delegate told Reuters. “I don’t know how they will run today’s sessions.”
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