President Jacob Zuma scores landslide win in ANC elections

President wins 75pc of votes in three-way race, setting him up to remain at the helm until 2019

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2012, 4:27am


South African president Jacob Zuma scored a thumping victory over main opponent and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe in an ANC leadership contest yesterday, opening the way for him to lead Africa's largest economy until 2019.

Zuma won the backing of 75 per cent of the ANC's 3,977 voting delegates at a party conference in Bloemfontein, making him the odds-on favourite to retain the presidency after 2014 general elections.

Businessman Cyril Ramaphosa won the party's deputy presidency with 76.4 per cent of the vote in a three-way race, setting him up as Zuma's potential successor and future president.

The vote took place despite the conference being threatened by right-wing extremists.

Police said four men plotted to kill Zuma, Motlanthe, government ministers and senior party officials.

The men were charged with treason and terrorism.

Inside the conference there were also plots and intrigue.

Zuma had faced an embarrassing, if lacklustre, leadership challenge from Motlanthe, who won 991 of the votes.

Party secretary general Gwede Mantashe and chairwoman Baleka Mbete were reelected while the newcomers include deputy-secretary general Jessie Duarte and treasurer general Zweli Mkhize, who is also the premier of Zuma's home province of KwaZulu-Natal.

The scale of Zuma's victory, dubbed a "Zumanami" will take some of the heat off the embattled president.

But after three crisis-marked years in power, Zuma faces a tough slog ahead. He will have to work hard to win back South African voters, who increasingly see the ANC as out of touch, incompetent and corrupt.

Criticism of his administration reached a crescendo earlier this year when police killed 34 striking miners in one day and it emerged that around US$27 million of taxpayers' money had been used to refurbish his private home.

A TNS South Africa poll released on Monday showed Motlanthe's approval rating at 70 per cent, while Zuma polled 52 per cent - less than the ANC's total at the last elections.

Despite public anger at the state of the country, the ANC is likely to romp home in 2014.

Zuma also faces an uphill struggle to correct the ailing South African economy. Unemployment is at 25 per cent and the economy is growing at its slowest rate in three years.

The election of Ramaphosa as deputy head of the party may assuage some fears, though.

"What we may have here is a positive PR boost plus another investor friendly voice in cabinet but little real change on the ground and in action," said Peter Attard Montalto, an analyst with Japanese bank Nomura.