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African National Congress prepares to choose Jacob Zuma's successor

The ANC has governed South Africa since the first democratic election more than 20 years ago. More than 5,000 delegates are taking part in the four-day ANC elective conference at the Expo Centre in Johannesburg. 

16 December 2017, 1:26pm
African president Jacob Zuma
African president Jacob Zuma
Preparations are underway for South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC) to choose a successor to its current leader President Jacob Zuma as he nears the end of his second and last five-year stint at the helm of the country.

More than 5,000 delegates are taking part in the four-day ANC elective conference at the Expo Centre in Johannesburg. The ANC has governed South Africa since the first democratic election more than 20 years ago.

Forerunners include the current deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, and former cabinet minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, President Zuma's ex-wife. Whoever wins is likely to succeed Mr Zuma as South African president.

But their bitter leadership battle has raised fears that the ANC could split before national elections in 2019. President Zuma can remain head of state until those elections. He has been in office since 2009 and South Africa limits the presidency to two five-year terms.

As delegates gathered for the four-day conference in Johannesburg, Mr Zuma, who faces multiple corruption allegations, has urged the party to unite behind the eventual winner. The leadership contest is expected to be a close one and legal challenges are a possibility.

There is speculation as to what might happen to Jacob Zuma after this conference, and whether the ANC will force him to stand down as President of the country. Local media are reporting that he says he will only agree to a decision by the party to recall him as head of state "if the move did not risk further dividing the ANC.”

President Zuma has given his backing to his 68-year-old ex-wife, Ms Dlamini-Zuma, a veteran politician in her own right who has been critical of the enduring power of white-owned businesses. The other leading contender, Cyril Ramaphosa, 65, has been an outspoken critic of state corruption and enjoys the backing of the business community.

President Zuma, 75, has been the subject of several controversies and is a survivor of a number of votes of no confidence in parliament. He denies the numerous corruption allegations which he is currently facing.