South Africa's Zuma boosted by Ramaphosa return in ANC win

Tue Dec 18, 2012 11:18am EST
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By Peroshni Govender

BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa (Reuters) - South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) re-elected President Jacob Zuma as its leader on Tuesday, setting him up for seven more years as head of state of Africa's biggest economy.

Nelson Mandela's 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 crammed into a marquee in the central city of Bloemfontein erupted into wild cheers when Zuma 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, 70-year-old Zuma is virtually assured a second, five-year term as President of South Africa in 2014 elections.

The rand briefly edged higher against the dollar, reflecting relief among investors at the prospect of policies remaining largely unchanged.

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 decades of white-minority rule.

Zuma, a polygamous Zulu traditionalist, came to power in 2009 amid the first recession in 18 years and has had a chequered economic record, culminating in violent labor unrest in the mines this year that triggered two downgrades in South Africa's credit ratings.

He has also been dogged by personal scandals, including fathering a child by the daughter of a close friend. Despite this, his popularity within the party is overwhelming.   Continued...

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma celebrates his re-election as Party President at the National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Bloemfontein December 18, 2012. South Africa's ruling ANC re-elected Zuma as its leader on Tuesday, setting him up for seven more years as head of state of Africa's biggest economy. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings