S.Africa's Ramaphosa seeks reelection as ruling party boss

5. South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gives a speech to at the National Conference of the African National Congress in Johannesburg on December 16, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa South Africa's ruling ANC was due to elect a new leader this weekend after the country's embattled president Cyril Ramaphosa pitched to steer the graft-tainted party for a second term.اضافة اعلان

Despite a tarnishing cash-heist scandal and vociferous internal opposition, Ramaphosa, 70, is tipped to win reelection as the head of the African National Congress (ANC) at a five-day party conference that kicked off on Friday.

But after 28 years in power, the party shaped by Nelson Mandela to spearhead the struggle to end apartheid faces deep rifts and declining support.

Its image has been stained by corruption, cronyism, nepotism, and a lackluster economic record.

In a three-hour-long address on Friday, Ramaphosa sought to project confidence and authority. 

South Africans "expect us to have the courage and the honesty to recognize our shortcomings and the resolve to correct them," he told some 4,500 ANC delegates at an events center near Johannesburg.

Almost three decades after the end of white-minority rule, unemployment and crime rates are sky high, poverty and inequality remain widespread, and power cuts have hit record levels amid a worsening energy crisis.

The conference was running well behind schedule on Saturday, after starting several hours late the day before.

But party officials said voting was still expected to take place.

"Our delegates just have to understand that we may have to work for much longer than we had anticipated," said national spokesman Pule Mabe.

That caused some to grumble

"It is extremely frustrating," one delegate from the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province who preferred not to give his name said of the delays.

Dozens of delegates heckled the current South African leader, chanting "Change! Change!" and banging on their tables.

"Let us exercise discipline, let us exercise political consciousness," Ramaphosa said, urging attendees to debate issues instead of "shouting" and "howling at each other".

Portraying himself as a graft-busting champion, Ramaphosa took control of the ANC in 2017 after his then boss Zuma became mired in corruption allegations.

But his clean-hands image has been dented by accusations he concealed a huge cash burglary at his farm in 2020, rather than report it to the authorities.

Ramaphosa won a reprieve ahead of the conference when the ANC used its majority in parliament to block a possible impeachment inquiry.

He is still leading the list of only two nominated presidential candidates so far and is seen to be the most viable in the absence of better options to lead the 110-year-old party.

The party has lost its grip over key cities in municipal elections and its electoral showing slumped last year to under 50 percent for the first time in its history.

But the ANC remains South Africa's largest party.

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