Jacob Zuma wins a landslide victory in leadership election

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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.”