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Zuma Wins Presidency of South Africa's Ruling Party

The National Conference of the African National Congress has elected Jacob Zuma as the new president of the organization. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from Polokwane.

The announcement of Jacob Zuma's victory by election agent Drenee Nupen was followed by rapturous applause.

"The number of votes received by Comrade Thabo Mbeki, 1,505; thank you, can I move on please? Comrades can I please move on? The number of votes received by Comrade Jacob Zuma, 2,329," she said.

Outgoing party leader, and South African President Thabo Mbeki lost by 824 votes to his bitter rival.

The so-called Zuma list swept the floor. Former ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe is the new deputy president of the party, but he has been positioning himself as aligned to neither Zuma nor to Thabo Mbeki.

Earlier in the day Motlanthe said that if corruption charges are reinstated against Zuma, it is something the ANC will have to face head-on.

"So that issue of the possibility or otherwise of fresh charges against Jacob Zuma is assessed in that context by the general membership because we don't have any means or authority to overrule them," he said. "They are the final arbiters in these cases. So if they elect him, we will have to live with that. And if he is charged, they as a membership will have to live with that, and cross that bridge when we get to it."

Zuma's supporters in the Congress of South African Trade Unions will be thrilled by the vote. Not only is Zuma now ANC president, fulfilling the earlier prediction from COSATU Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi that he was an "unstoppable tsunami" but the party's officials now have strong union representation.

Reaction to the election is already streaming in. Helen Zille, the leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance described the outcome as a dismal day for the ANC and for South Africa.