South African President Jacob Zuma won the most nominations to lead the African National Congress, putting him on track to remain the ruling party’s head and to be its presidential candidate in elections in 2014.
Zuma, 70, secured more than 60 percent of the total votes according to results tabulated after six of nine provinces nominated candidates to lead the party for the next five years. The majority was secured at 2:30 a.m. local time today, when 65 percent of the delegates in the Eastern Cape province, the ANC’s second-largest, voted for Zuma.
The president has faced internal party divisions, an unemployment crisis and a wave of mining strikes that helped to cut growth in Africa’s biggest economy by more than half. Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who is backed by the Youth League, has criticized the way the country is run.
Motlanthe now trails in the race for deputy president, a traditional stepping stone to take over the party. Cyril Ramaphosa, former trade union leader turned tycoon, is ahead with 43 percent of votes, after 75 percent of nomination ballots were cast. Motlanthe only has support from 6 percent of ANC delegates so far.
While the provincial nominations aren’t binding on the 4,500 party delegates who will vote at the Dec. 16-20 party conference, they’re a strong indicator of who will probably win. The percentage of delegates who back Zuma and Motlanthe during the nominations in each province will show who has more support nationwide.
Motlanthe said yesterday he’s “still agonizing” over whether to run as a candidate if nominated. He may make up some ground in the remaining three provinces.
Zuma’s government drew widespread criticism when police opened fire on striking workers at Lonmin Plc’s Marikana platinum mine on Aug. 16, killing 34 people. That was followed by a wave of industrial action in mining, transportation and agriculture that has stunted economic growth. Output grew an annualized 1.2 percent in the third quarter, the slowest since a recession in 2009 and down from 3.4 percent in the previous three months, Statistics South Africa said on Nov. 27.
The cost to protect South African debt against non-payment for five years using credit-default swaps has jumped about 20 basis points since the beginning of August, indicating deteriorating risk perception among investors, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Zuma has failed to tackle the one-in-four jobless rate, which he had said was his top priority. The government estimates the economy needs to expand 7 percent a year to meet its goal of creating 5 million new jobs by 2020.
The leader of the 100-year-old ANC is almost guaranteed the national presidency because the party controls almost two-thirds of Parliament, which elects the president.
Gauteng, the nation’s commercial hub that includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, was the first province to back Motlanthe as the leader to replace Zuma. He won support from 60 percent of the ANC branches in the region, which accounts for 12 percent of votes at the national conference.
Zuma received unanimous support this week from his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, which has 22 percent of the voting delegates. Yesterday, 86 percent of delegates from the Northern Cape, the ANC’s smallest province, backed Zuma. On Nov. 29, he won unanimous backing in Free State, which has 8 percent of the vote, and 96 percent in Mpumalanga, which makes up 11 percent of delegates voting in December.
Earlier this week, the ANC military veteran’s association and the Women’s League agreed to back Zuma, while the Youth League nominated Motlanthe. The three structures each have 1 percent of the vote.
ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe is also likely to hold on to his position with backing from 60 percent of the delegates so far.