South Africa - Motlanthe To Challenge Zuma For ANC Leadership

South Africa's Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe will challenge incumbent President Jacob Zuma for the leadership of the ruling African National Congress and the country, a source close to Motlanthe told AFP Wednesday.
"Yes, of course he will stand," the source said on condition of anonymity, setting up a leadership battle at a five-yearly party conference which begins on Sunday.

Around 4,500 senior ANC members will gather in Bloemfontein to select the party leader, who -- thanks to the party's electoral dominance -- is also likely to run Africa's largest economy until 2019.

The confirmation ends months of speculation about whether Zuma, who has been dogged by allegations of corruption and mismanagement, would be challenged.

During Zuma's tenure, the ANC has been rattled by criticism that it has failed to improve the lives of poor black South Africans, traditionally its core constituency.

Zuma has been heavily criticised recently for his response to deadly strike-related violence in the country's key mining sector, which helped slow economic growth in the third quarter of 2012 to 1.2 percent, the lowest level in more than three years.

In a speech late Wednesday, Motlanthe did not directly announce his candidature, but had a stern message about the health of the party.

"We should stop the culture of corruption that is creeping within our rank, corroding our value system and undermining the memory of thousands of leaders... who have ensured that the ground is prepared for a free and democratic society that we are taking for granted today," he said.

Motlanthe, a former trade union leader, briefly served as interim president of the country in 2008-2009.

A native of Johannesburg's Alexandra township, he was once a member of the ANC's military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe.

While garnering support from the left of the party, analysts say he shares much of Zuma's ideology.

But the difference in styles between the two men is marked.

Zuma, a charismatic autodidact, has wooed voters with his homespun charm, while Motlanthe often appears professorial.

But he faces an uphill struggle to wrest control of the party from Zuma, who appears to have the backing of a majority of the provincial party branches.

Motlanthe has the backing of members in the provinces of Gauteng, the Western Cape and Limpopo, as well as the support of the ANC's Youth League -- far from enough to secure the nomination.

"I do see President Zuma winning again... just because the largest amount of delegates in the conference comes from KwaZulu-Natal, which is of course his home province," said Adriaan Basson, author of "Zuma Exposed".

"He's almost got a quarter of the votes already in the pocket just from this one province."

But a Motlanthe victory is not impossible.

Five years ago at an edition of the same ANC conference Zuma successfully wrested control of the party from Thabo Mbeki, who was then forced to resign the presidency.

Polls have shown Motlanthe is marginally more popular than Zuma, but holds a significant lead among black adults in urban areas.
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