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Why South Africa's Leadership Race Is Wide Open

An ANC supporter walks with the party's flag in Johannesburg, South Africa on Nov 13.

An ANC supporter walks with the party's flag in Johannesburg, South Africa on Nov 13.

Photographer: MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP via Getty Images

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The race to lead South Africa’s ruling African National Congress is in the home stretch. While current nomination tallies from the ANC’s branches indicate that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will have the edge at the party’s national elective conference that starts Saturday, its voting structure and procedures mean his main rival, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, could still win. The victor is likely to become the country’s next president.

The ANC holds a national conference every five years to pick its top leadership. Because the ANC has held power in South Africa since apartheid ended in 1994, the winning candidates typically go on to top positions in the government. Jacob Zuma, the nation’s current president, won control of the ANC from Thabo Mbeki in December 2007 and took office in May 2009.