, BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa, Dec 18 – South African president Jacob Zuma scored a thumping victory in the ANC’s leadership contest on Tuesday, opening the way for him to lead Africa’s largest economy until 2019.
Zuma won the backing of more than 75 percent of the ANC’s 3,977 voting delegates at a party conference in Bloemfontein, making him the odds-on favourite to retain the presidency after 2014 general elections.
“The national conference has spoken and we are all part of that decision,” a triumphant Zuma said in brief remarks to delegates which focused heavily on party unity.
Businessman Cyril Ramaphosa won the deputy presidency setting him up to become Zuma’s eventual successor.
The vote took place despite the conference being threatened by right-wing extremists.
Police said four men plotted to kill Zuma, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, government ministers and senior party officials.
The men appeared in court on Tuesday and were charged with treason and terrorism.
Inside the conference there were also plots and intrigue.
Zuma had faced an embarrassing, if lacklustre, leadership challenge from Motlanthe, who won 991 of the votes.
The scale of Zuma’s victory, dubbed a “Zumanami,” prompted supporters to mock Motlanthe’s camp, gesturing that their quest for change had gone “boom.”
It will also take some of the heat off the embattled president.
“Zuma has not come forward with the fancy words, he has done his job. With this leadership we can go forward to 2014,” said Tebogo Lekoloane, a voting delegate from Limpopo.
But after three years in power marked by crisis, Zuma faces a tough slog ahead.
He will have to work hard to win back South African voters, who increasingly see the ANC as out of touch, incompetent and corrupt.
Zuma’s poll numbers have steadily eroded amid a series of scandals.
Criticism of his administration reached a crescendo earlier this year when police killed 34 striking miners in one day and it emerged that around $27 million (21 million euros) of taxpayers’ money had been used to refurbish his private home.