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Scandal-hit Ramaphosa re-elected as South African ANC leader

A party conference has been marked by divisions and scandals surrounding Ramaphosa and his rival Zweli Mkhize.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been re-elected leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party despite being mired in scandal and facing calls to resign as president.

Delegates at an ANC leadership conference voted Monday to keep Ramaphosa as party chief with 2,476 voting for him and 1,897 voting for his rival, former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

The result was well received by the president’s supporters who erupted in celebration when the results were announced in Johannesburg.

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The vote is a welcome victory for Ramaphosa. Last week, he survived a vote to launch impeachment proceedings against him after a parliamentary report said he may have broken anti-corruption laws by keeping large amounts of unreported dollars on his farm and failing to declare his theft.

Ramaphosa’s victory clears the way for him to run for a second term as president in 2024.

Ramaphosa and the newly elected ANC leaders have many challenges to tackle as South Africa experiences crippling power cuts of more than seven hours a day, an unemployment rate of 35 percent and reports of widespread corruption.

Ramaphosa admitted that his government was partly to blame for the electricity crisis when he spoke at the opening of the conference on Friday. He promised that his government would ensure an adequate supply of electricity by purchasing more renewable energy in the coming years.

Ramaphosa also vowed that his government would continue to fight corruption, even as it became embroiled in a corruption scandal.

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He faced a rival in the party choice whose own reputation has been tarnished. Mkhize resigned as health minister last year over a scandal in which his family was found to have benefited from a government contract.

Although the race was closer than expected, Ramaphosa managed to more than triple his margin of victory from the very narrow 179 votes he won by in 2017.

Meanwhile, two of Ramaphosa’s main critics within his cabinet were decisively sidelined.

Cooperative Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who last week voted in parliament in favor of impeachment proceedings, rejected a nomination to run for ANC president. Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu appeared isolated at the conference.

Despite Ramaphosa’s victory, the ANC remains deeply divided. Former President Jacob Zuma leads almost half of the party that opposes Ramaphosa and his anti-corruption campaign. Mkhize has become the public head of that faction.

Oscar Mabuyane, who lost the ANC vice-president race, said he was happy with Ramaphosa’s victory.

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“This victory is not just for the perspective of the ANC or one faction. It’s for the country,” Mabuyane told The Associated Press.

Mandilakhe Kondile, a delegate from the Eastern Cape province, said Ramaphosa deserved another chance as ANC leader.

“We strongly believe that Ramaphosa was not given enough time to make significant changes,” Kondile said. “He Solo has directed for five years. Now is a second chance for him to address the issues facing South Africans and unify the African National Congress.”

Delegates chose Paul Mashatile, the party’s outgoing general treasurer, as Ramaphosa’s deputy. The party re-elected Gwede Mantashe for another term as national president.

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Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula was elected as the party’s general secretary, and his deputies will be Nomvula Mokonyane and Maropene Ramokgopa. The party’s new general treasurer is Gwen Ramakgopa.

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