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Divided ANC poised to elect new leader, closing Zuma’s era

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa–Nelson Mandela’s powerful African National Congress (ANC) is sinking, as division permeates its transition to new leadership.

In subsequent days, the ruling ANC is meeting to elect a new leadership in a process that has divided the party at every level in its history before and the end of Apartheid.

About 5,000 delegates will elect the party’s new top leadership–– a process that will herald the windup of the contentious rule of beleaguered party leader and South African president, Jacob Zuma.

Jacob Zuma saluting at an ANC’s policy conference.  The end to scandals,

Zuma has been saddled with mounting corruption and sexual scandals, a curse that has fragmented the party over the years.  He will be stepping down at the upcoming ANC’s conference, thereby prompting the election of his successor.

According to the ANC’s mandate, his successor will then be the ostensible ruling party presidential candidate when South Africa next holds an election, in 2019. After the conference, Zuma may continue as president of the country after a new ANC’s leader is elected, but political commentators and analysts envisage that his party may attempt to convince him to resign before the election.

There are two main contenders in the race to succeed Zuma as the next ANC’s leader. Deputy South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa and former African Union Commission chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a senior African diplomat and former foreign minister who is also Zuma’s ex-wife.  The choice between the two powerful and influential top notches has been shaping the divide in the party of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, and Govan Mbeki and others

Organizers say voting is going to be an intricate, belligerent process this weekend

Gwede Mantashe, the ANC’s secretary on Saturday said that about 100 delegates will not be granted voting status at the conference based on a court ruling on Friday.  Analysts say that would be a huge blow to Dlamini-Zuma’s base.

Former Gauteng province premier Tokyo Sexwale and many other political watchers have warned that the hostile clash in facing the conference could make or break the party that has commanded a clear majority in every national vote since 1994 when Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s post-racial and post-Apartheid president.

“At this conference, it is at the crossroads,” he told several news outlets on the sidelines. “It must be mindful of the fact that a wrong turn could bury this organization.”

“Here’s a chance now to fix the ANC itself,” he said. “…To send a stout and clear message that we have turned a corner. If we are not going to do that, nobody is going to trust us.”

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Jacob Ujamaa Nyerere

Jacob Ujamaa Nyerere is a public affairs researcher and senior investigative correspondent.

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