South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has re-elected president Jacob Zuma as its leader, setting him up for seven more years as head of state of Africa’s biggest economy.
The 100-year-old liberation movement also chose respected businessman Cyril Ramaphosa as his deputy, seeking to repair the image of a Zuma administration battered by corruption scandals and strikes and facing growing discontent among the poor black majority.
More than 4,000 ANC delegates yesterday crammed into a marquee in the central city of Bloemfontein erupted into wild cheers when Mr Zuma, 70, was confirmed in the top party post after comfortably seeing off a challenge by deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe.
Given the ANC’s dominance at the ballot box less than two decades after the end of apartheid, Mr Zuma is virtually assured a second, five-year term as president in the 2014 elections.
After the vote, the beaming president, who secured 2,995 votes out of 3,977 cast, walked on stage to shake hands with his fellow “comrades” – a label reflecting the ANC’s roots in the communist-backed struggle against of white minority rule.
Mr Zuma came to power in 2009 amid the first recession in 18 years and has had a chequered record. He has also been dogged by personal scandals, including fathering a child by the daughter of a friend. But his popularity in the party is overwhelming.
“I don’t care what people say about Jacob Zuma,” said Sinovuyo Kley, a delegate from the impoverished Eastern Cape. “When you hear him sing, you know he is one with the people. He speaks our language and knows our struggles.”