South Africa: Jacob Zuma asks ANC conference to re-elect him leader


South African President Jacob Zuma sings and dances during the opening ceremony of the 53rd National Conference of the African National Congress (ANC) on December 16, 2012, in Bloemfontein. South Africa's ruling ANC kicked off what promises to be a contentious five-yearly party conference today, with embattled President Jacob Zuma facing a leadership challenge from his deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe.



South African President Jacob Zuma, facing a leadership challenge at the African National Congress (ANC) conference, has defended his government's record.

Party leadership essentially determines who will be the South African president after elections in 2014, and Zuma has a rival in Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

The Mangaung conference, being held in the city also known as Bloemfontein, brings together around 4,000 delegates of the ANC — a liberation movement founded to fight apartheid that has been governing South Africa for 18 years amid increasing criticism, according to the Associated Press.

Zuma himself has been dogged by corruption allegations and questions about his personal life, the AP wrote, but remains the favorite among ANC delegates to lead the party to national elections in 2014.

Zuma presented a confident figure at the conference. The LA Times reported that he wore a leather jacket in the ANC colors of yellow, green and black and danced around to battle songs during his appearance, which excited the crowd.

His cause is boosted by the decision of South Africa's richest businessman, Cyril Ramaphosa, to support Zuma by standing for the deputy leadership of the ANC.

Ramaphosa played a key role in the transition to black-majority rule, the BBC wrote, and was "the pre-eminent union leader in the dying days of apartheid and negotiated the end of white rule." 

Zuma also sang about Nelson Mandela, the party’s elder statesman, still in the hospital recovering from a lung infection.

Zuma's supporters are incensed that Motlanthe is even contesting the leadership spot, the LA Times added.

Ironically, the paper notes, Zuma seized power from his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, at a similar conference five years ago.

While acknowledged Sunday that corruption and violence had marred the image of the ANC under his watch, he called on members to again support him as leader, according to the AP.

In a speech televised live nationwide, he said:

"We want to dismiss the perceptions that the country is falling apart... The challenges we face — unemployment, poverty and inequality — are South African in their origin, and are deep and structural."