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S. Africa's Zuma Fails to Confirm Party Candidate for President


Despite promising to do so, African National Congress president Jacob Zuma has failed to name the party candidate to replace President Thabo Mbeki. But as VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our Johannesburg bureau, Zuma appeared to anoint his deputy for the job.

Jacob Zuma failed in his first address since forcing the ouster of Thabo Mbeki, to categorically answer the question of who his party will nominate to become president of the country. All Zuma was willing to do, was hint that the party's deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, might be a good choice.

"But I went further to say, we do not run short of comrades to undertake that task," Zuma said. "We have got experienced ministers who are there, including the deputy president of the ANC who is part of the cabinet, who if given that task, will equal it."

Zuma urged South Africans not to be apprehensive, but did not offer them the certainty they hoped for in the wake of Mr. Mbeki's resignation.

Motlanthe, who is believed to have been born in 1949, came to the ANC through the Black Consciousness Movement of slain activist Steve Biko. He was jailed by the apartheid government for his political activities for about 10 years.

While in jail he forged relationships with several ANC leaders, paving the way for his future in the organization. After his release from prison he joined the trade-union movement, and became secretary general of the National Union of Mineworkers. In 1997 he was elected secretary general of the ANC, and last year became the party's deputy president.

He is among those leaders of the ANC who believe Zuma was unfairly targeted by the prosecuting authority and is a strong supporter of the ANC president. Even so, he enjoys broad support across most factions in the ANC because of his calm approach to party disagreements and is considered a peacemaker.

Parliament is expected to meet Thursday to elect a new president who will remain in office until scheduled general elections around April of next year. The ANC is likely to win that election, although experts say with a reduced majority, at which time Jacob Zuma is likely to become president of South Africa.

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