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The South African ruling party meets to elect its leader

Ⓒ AFP – Gulshan Khan – | Delegates from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) arrive at the conference in Johannesburg to appoint their new leader on December 16, 2017

The African National Congress (ANC), which governs South Africa, meets as of this Saturday to designate its new leader, an election considered a key moment in post-apartheid history, in a context of crisis over accusations of corruption against the president Jacob Zuma

Whoever wins has many letters to be elected president, but the party has been burdened by corruption scandals and has lost the aura and popularity that counted when Nelson Mandela was elected in 1994, in the election that marked the end of apartheid.

The persistent economic crisis, unemployment and corruption attributed to the government threaten to deprive the party of absolute majority in the next general elections of 2019.

Thousands of black South Africans remain in poverty, with shortages in housing and education that show the continuity of racial inequalities.

Zuma, whose government has been marked by scandals, will leave the leadership of the party, but will continue as head of state until the elections.

The race is a tight duel between Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa, a former unionist turned millionaire businessman, and the candidate supported by Zuma, his former wife and former president of the African Union (AU), Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Supported by the moderate wing of the ANC, Ramaphosa, 65, is presented as a driver of the economy and job creation.

For his part, Ndlamini Zuma, 68, has taken over from his ex-husband for the “radical transformation of the economy” in favor of the country’s black majority. He accuses his main adversary of being the “bourgeois candidate”.

The five-day congress could increase divisions within the party, so both candidates launched last-minute calls to the unit.

But, a few hours before the start, legal disputes persisted that could interfere with the votes of the local delegates.

– “Fear of being prosecuted” –

Ramaphosa has been accused on several occasions of not being able to confront Zuma as his vice president since 2014.

“There is a lot at stake and the two candidates are very close in the race,” Amanda Gouws, a professor of political science at the South African University of Stellenbosch, told AFP.

Gouws said that thousands of delegates could receive bribes, as President Zuma seeks to settle the victory of Dlamini-Zuma.

“Zuma is very afraid of being persecuted for justice after he leaves power if Dlamini-Zuma does not win, so he is making sure that she wins,” he said.

Dlamini-Zuma denies any accusation of buying votes and assured that “no leader can be proud of being chosen with money in between”.

As tensions mounted, Ramaphosa said that “the party should unite behind whoever is elected.”

The party remains the largest in the country, with a wide margin, but the result of 54% of votes obtained in the local elections last year was the worst performance in an election since 1994 and left in evidence its burdensome popularity.

According to the polls of recent weeks and the majority of analysts, only the current vice president would allow the ANC to retain an absolute majority in the 2019 general elections.

In case Ramaphosa fails, many anticipate the division of the party.

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