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South Africans Head to the Polls

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South Africans Head to the Polls

Post by shammy on Tue Dec 18, 2007 4:03 pm

18th December,2007

POLOKWANE, South Africa Dec. 18--Thousands of African National Congress activists lined up in the rain Tuesday morning to elect a new leader: either incumbent President Thabo Mbeki or the man he fired in 2005 because of alleged corruption, former deputy president Jacob Zuma.

Each candidate's supporters sang and danced their way to the polls. Zuma's supporters also heckled members of Mbeki's cabinet as they passed by, blocking the way of Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota and prompting Finance Minister Trevor Manuel to use his umbrella as a shield as he pressed his way through the crowd.

Both sides expressed confidence that they would win a majority of votes from the 3,900 delegates, though Zuma's support has been far more vociferous and visible during the conference's first three days here on the outskirts of the northern city of Polokwane.

Mbeki supporters said they had chosen to act in a more dignified manner rather than engaging in shouting matches with Zuma's backers. "We have been quiet to show our discipline," said Numveliso Nyunkwana, 35, as she marched and sang liberation songs along with a large delegation from the Eastern Cape province, Mbeki's ancestral home.

The results of the vote for party leader, which are expected either late Tuesday or Wednesday morning, will profoundly shape the battle for the national presidency ahead of the next general election in 2009. The African National Congress so dominates South African politics that its nominee for president is virtually certain to win.

An Mbeki victory here at the party conference would allow him wide latitude in selecting an ally, most likely Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as the party's nominee for national president. Mbeki himself is prohibited by the constitution from running for a third term.


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