South Africa?s former deputy president, who is widely favored to become president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, has formally accepted nominations to run for the post of party leader. Jacob Zuma?s popularity, which political observers say foils President Thabo Mbeki?s unprecedented bid for a third term, is reportedly threatening to undermine unity within the ANC. Some observers blame Mbeki for the rift with former Deputy President Zuma, whom he sacked over graft allegations.

This month, the ANC will choose a leader, who traditionally becomes the national president. From Johannesburg, South African political analyst Xolela Mangcu tells reporter Peter Clottey that Zuma is set to become the ANC?s new leader.

?I?m not surprised at all, I mean it?s always been clear that he?s got his design on the presidency of the ANC, so it?s a mere formality now that he is accepting it,? Mangcu noted.

He concurs that the perceived animosity between President Mbeki and Zuma is threatening to undermine cohesion within the ruling party.

?That is true. It?s mainly of Thabo Mbeki?s making in my view. The ANC under Thabo Mbeki?s leadership has become much more divisive and vindictive, and many people in the ANC are just unhappy with him. Hence, the groundswell of votes for Zuma, which are mainly an anti-Mbeki sentiment,? he said.

Mangcu said the perceived animosity between the two leading figures in the ruling party is as bad as it sounds.

?It?s terrible. I mean, they see the people who are trying to send each other to jail if they have to. It?s quite inexplicable, given the long history of exile and struggle together. But the ANC, I suppose, has begun to show some of the problems of liberation movements when they get into power. Comrade against comrade,? Mangcu pointed out.

He said he advocates a compromise candidate ahead of the party?s selection congress, but reckons that it might not be feasible.

?That would have been my preference that there should have been a compromise candidate. In fact, there should have been an identification a few years back of somebody who could take over after Mbeki. But Mbeki never allowed that to happen. But I?m afraid that it?s too late now for a compromise candidate,? he said.

Mangcu says all seem to be set for Jacob Zuma to lead the ruling ANC party.

?Well, yes, he is going to lead the ANC and there is only about two weeks now before the election takes place. He?s got overwhelming support of ANC members, so there is nothing really to stop him. The question really is, what happens after December? That?s what many people are beginning to focus on,? Mangcu noted.