BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA — South Africa's populist but often criticized president has been re-elected head of the ruling party, which makes him likely to win another term as the nation's leader in 2014. Delegates of the African National Congress voted overwhelmingly for five more years of Jacob Zuma.
Zuma’s supporters were heard before they were seen. Dancing their way into the African National Congress meeting on the campus of the University of the Free State on Tuesday, they sent a message of support through song.
And the message was clear.
"Zuma was there in the struggle," a delegate translated. "He has been there."
Motlanthe left in cold
It was a musical rebuke to the man who dared to challenge the popular leader: soft-spoken Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
Quiet as he is, though, Motlanthe pulled a bold and surprising move: He refused to re-run for his current job. That left the mild, professorial man in an all-or-nothing position.
And in the end, in that hall in the city of Bloemfontein, he got nothing.
Slightly less than 4,000 votes were cast between the two candidates. Voting stretched overnight Monday.
Motlanthe won nearly 1,000 of those. It was not precisely clear how many Zuma won because this is what happened when his name was announced:
“Comrade Jacob Zuma received two thousand nine hundred...." and raucous cheering drowned out the final count after it was cleared he had an overwhelming majority.
New lineup ascends
It took several minutes before the hall calmed down and officials announced the rest of the party slate, which includes a new deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who is a trade-union leader turned businessman. In 2011, he took over all South Africa's McDonald’s franchises.
The men’s supporters were ecstatic. ANC electoral member Merah Mahlase, who is from the northern province of Limpopo, says she is thrilled. Like many of Mr. Zuma’s supporters, she calls him by his nickname, J-Z.
“I think J-Z will unite this ANC for this five years," said Mahlase. "C-R will make the economy of S-A go a good way. Because he’s good in economics, he knows how to run businesses. So he’s going to put S-A in a good way.”
The ANC now will go into two more days of talks about issues facing the country.