- Title: SOUTH AFRICA: South Africa's divided ANC chooses its leader
- Date: 19th December 2007
- Summary: (W3) POLOKWANE, SOUTH AFRICA (DECEMBER 18, 2007) (REUTERS) DELEGATES SINGING AND DANCING WHILE GOING TO VOTING HALL
- Embargoed: 3rd January 2008 12:00
- Location: South Africa
- Country: South Africa
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA5QBBHCGJ3W3E7VUY97EZUSNBG
- Story Text: Delegates vote in an acrimonious election to choose the leader of South Africa's ruling ANC as one analyst says political rift will continue even after conference ends.
Voting in an acrimonious election to choose the leader of South Africa's ruling ANC has closed and results are expected after 1600 GMT, a senior ANC official said on Tuesday (December 18).
The 3,900 delegates also voted for five other ANC leadership positions.
ANC deputy leader Jacob Zuma is widely expected to oust South African President Thabo Mbeki as party chief in the vote, which was delayed by two days of wrangling between supporters of the two rivals at a party congress.
The vote had been originally scheduled to start at 0400 GMT.
If Zuma wins he is almost certain to become president of South Africa, the African continent's biggest economy, when Mbeki has to stand down in 2009.
The bitter leadership contest in the once monolithic party that has ruled South Africa virtually unopposed since the end of apartheid in 1994 was initially due to take place on Sunday (December 16).
But internal party wrangling and bickering over delegate credentials, voting procedures and reported dirty tricks by both sides forced officials to delay it.
Zuma, backed by trade unions, communists and grassroots ANC members, went into the December 16-20 congress with huge momentum, having won nearly double the number of branch nominations over Mbeki.
But some investors fear a Zuma victory could lead to a reversal of the centrist course Mbeki has charted during his eight years in power and which many credit for economic growth.
Zuma has tried to reassure investors there would be no sweeping policy changes under his leadership.
His supporters have stuck with him through his dismissal by Mbeki as the country's deputy president in 2005, a rape trial and corruption allegations.
Zuma has denied any wrong-doing.
They have staged noisy demonstrations, thundering their approval for the Zulu politician while heckling Mbeki ministers in Polokwane, north of Johannesburg.
Defence Minister Mosiua Lekota was booed by Zuma supporters while being interviewed by journalists.
However, government ministers said they were not afraid of a possible change in the ANC leadership.
"I am not afraid of change, you know we are the agents of change," said Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel.
The party rift, the worst in the history of the ANC, have dismayed veterans including Nelson Mandela.
Analyst Adam Habib said that it was likely that the rift would continue even after the leadership conference had ended.
" I don't think we must be anticipating that these divisions are over, I think either Thabo Mbeki wins or Jacob Zuma wins, we can almost be guaranteed that these divisions are going to continue for the next two years," said Habib.
Mbeki and Zuma, both veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle, are almost polar opposites.
Mbeki, an intellectual who took over the ANC leadership from Mandela in 1997 and the state presidency two years later, has waged a last-minute bid to convince delegates to give him a third term in office.
Although he must step down as South African leader in 2009, Mbeki wants to retain control of the party to govern comfortably during his remaining years in office and choose a successor.
Mbeki's camp has said Zuma was unfit for the country's top job due to his brushes with the law.
Zuma, acquitted in 2006 of raping an HIV-positive woman, is currently the target of a corruption investigation.
But Zuma has been endorsed by the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions, which is in a formal governing alliance with the ANC.
Many members of the South African Communist Party also support him.
Although Mbeki has been praised for spurring economic growth, critics say his government has neglected the poor.
The ballots will be manually counted and it is expected to be a slow process. If Zuma wins control of the dominant ANC, he is almost certain to become president when Mbeki stands down in 2009.
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