JOHANNESBURG — The race to succeed President Jacob Zuma as leader of the African National Congress went unresolved Sunday, as ANC officials delayed a vote more than 24 hours to settle internal disputes over who was allowed to participate.
The winner of the party presidency will be the ANC nominee for president of South Africa in 2019, and will face the tremendous task of winning back the support of voters disenchanted with the rampant corruption that has marked the years with Zuma at the helm.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and former government minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma emerged as the two remaining candidates at the party conference late Sunday. Five other candidates bowed out, and no candidate was nominated from the floor. The two are now competing for a majority of delegates from ANC branches throughout South Africa’s nine provinces and from the party’s Women’s and Youth League.
Ramaphosa founded the politically influential National Union of Mineworkers and led the union through strikes that shocked the apartheid-era economy. He left politics in the 1990s and entered the private sector, where he became one of the country’s richest people.
Dlamini Zuma served as health minister in the cabinet of Nelson Mandela and at one point served as his doctor, said Carien du Plessis, the author of “Woman in the Wings: Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and the Race for the Presidency.” Dlamini Zuma later served as minister of home and foreign affairs before leaving domestic politics to lead the African Union Commission.
She and Zuma divorced in 1998. They have four children together.
Zuma’s term as president of the republic continues until 2019, but a winner could face intense pressure to remove him early. The ANC’s National Executive Committee recalled former president Thabo Mbeki in 2008 after he lost the ANC presidency to Zuma.
“The sooner Zuma leaves from national, state presidency the better for the ANC for election 2019,” said Susan Booysen, a professor of governance at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
The ANC, a banned political organization during the apartheid years of the 20th century, led the resistance to white minority rule. After his release from prison, Mandela guided the party to victory in the first all-race elections in 1994. The party has remained firmly in the presidency since then, but its share of the electorate has decreased in each of the past three elections.