South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has been elected leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party in a marathon vote that raised the likelihood for the 65-year-old businessman to become the country’s next head of state after incumbent President Jacob Zuma.
“We declare comrade Cyril Ramaphosa the new president of the African National Congress,” an election official told party delegates in Johannesburg on Monday.
The announcement came after about 5,000 delegates cast their votes in a bitterly fought race between Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former cabinet minister and Zuma’s ex-wife.
The ANC, which has governed South Africa since the country attained democracy 23 years ago, elected Ramaphosa with 2,440 votes to Dlamini-Zuma’s 2,261.
The victory grants Ramaphosa a strong position in the 2019 presidential elections to succeed Zuma, whose reign has been plagued by corruption scandals and economic slowdown. Zuma has denied any wrongdoing.
Ramaphosa, a former trade union leader who became a businessman and is now one of the richest people in South Africa, has vowed to fight corruption and revitalize the country’s economy.
Thousands of raucous supporters of the new leader sang and chanted outside the Nasrec Expo Center, where Ramaphosa was declared winner.