Soweto, South Africa- Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s deputy president, has been elected as the new leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), narrowly beating Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, after a series of tense sessions at the party’s conference.
The ANC announced on Monday that Ramaphosa had defeated Dlamini-Zuma, the former chairperson of the African Union Commission and President Jacob Zuma’s preferred candidate, to become the leader of Africa’s oldest liberation movement.
More than 4,700 delegates cast their ballot in a marathon voting session that began late on Sunday and continued until mid-morning on Monday.
Ramaphosa won 2,440 votes to Dlamini-Zuma’s 2,261.
He will replace Zuma as ANC president and almost certainly run for the country’s presidency when South Africa takes to the polls in 2019.
Zuma will remain as South Africa’s president until then, but it is possible that Ramaphosa and the new national executive may recall him over a series of allegations of corruption that has dogged his tenure as president.
The announcement of the results marked the end of a bitter leadership race that threatened to split the party, with the two leading candidates presenting completely different visions for the future of the country.
Voting had been initially delayed after ANC officials battled to vet delegates, forcing the conference itself to start late. Hundreds of delegates were also disqualified from voting.
The markets reacted immediately to the news, with the South African currency, the rand, strengthening to the dollar.
Ramaphosa, a successful businessman and one of South Africa’s wealthiest people, ran on a campaign to fight corruption and increase economic growth.
Analysts said he was seen as the more “credible” candidate and a possible antidote to the recent failures of the ANC under Zuma.