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Posted at 01:57 PM ET, 10/03/2012

‘American Idol’s’ South Africa counterpart crowns first black winner

Nearly two decades after the end of apartheid, South Africa’s black majority has conquered the country’s halls of power. But until this week, they had yet to rise to the peak of pop Idoldom.

After eight seasons of white and mixed-race winners, a singing show in South Africa has crowned a black victor — one who represents almost 80 percent of the country’s population.

Khaya Mthethwa, a gospel singer from Durban, beat out Melissa Allison Monday to win Idols South Africa, an American Idol-esque singing competition.

The show was broadcast on a subscription channel, the Guardian reported, so voting has been skewed toward the white middle class. Broadcaster M-Net had even been accused of racism and vote-rigging

Mthethwa’s win comes after a fierce advocacy campaign by his fans. One South African paper reports that in the heat of the competition, Mthethwa enthusiasts made use of apartheid-era imagery in their campaign:

“The iconic 1956 photo of the thousands of women who marched to the Union Buildings to protest against pass laws was reworked to read "SMS 08 to 37400. Vote for Khaya,’” The Times wrote.

Here is Mthethwa singing with Allison at the contest in September:

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By  |  01:57 PM ET, 10/03/2012

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