SOUTH Africans are on tenterhooks as they await the results of a vote for the successor to president Jacob Zuma as leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
Analysts say the contest between Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (65) and former cabinet minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (68) at the Expo Centre in Johannesburg, is too close to call after voting by around 5,000 delegates ended this morning.
Vote counting is still proceeding and results are expected to be announced later today, with many analysts forecasting a tight race between the two contenders.
“My fear is that the ANC may split up if the results are not to the satisfaction of the majority of people,” said South African political analyst who declined to be named. “Emotions have been running high throughout the four day conference and it didn’t help matters that there have been serious objections over voting rules.”
A freelance journalist at the conference told Team Buntu Africa website that he expects the smallest of margins between the winner and loser.
“Although the voting is done in secret there are so many factors that could swing the vote one way or the other and not necessarily because the voter really believes in the candidate’s fitness to lead the ANC and also become president of South Africa,” the journalist said. “The ANC is also facing a challenge from within its own grassroots and there might be a backlash if the result is deemed controversial.”
President Zuma himself has warned the ANC is under threat and is at a “crossroads,” due to fierce political infighting.
Ramaphosa, is widely seen as the anti-corruption candidate. He enjoys the backing of the business community and recent news that he had a modest lead in the polls was quickly reflected by a surge in South Africa’s financial markets.
On the other hand, Ms Dlamini-Zuma, who is president Zuma’s ex-wife and a veteran politician in her own right, has been campaigning for an end to white monopoly in the business sector.
The ANC has been in power since South Africa transitioned to democracy in 1994 under Nelson Mandela, who also became the first black and democratically elected leader of that country.
President Zuma, who succeeded Thabo Mbeki has been in power since 2009. His tenure in office has been marked by numerous corruption allegations, which he denies. He is expected to remain in power until the 2019 national elections. South Africa’s constitution limits presidents to two five-year terms.