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Ramaphosa Re-elected As ANC Leader

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Cyril Ramaphosa reacts after being re-elected as ANC president during the 55th National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, December 19, 2022.

South Africa's ruling ANC party on Monday re-elected President Cyril Ramaphosa as its leader for a second five-year term, despite a brewing scandal over a huge cash theft at his farm.

Ramaphosa garnered 2,476 votes for the post of party president against 1,897 for former health minister Zweli Mkhize, the African National Congress' elections chief, Kgalema Motlanthe, announced.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, told reporters the president’s ready to give the country a "new ANC."

"We feel extremely energized that the president will be able to accelerate institutional reforms as well as the economic reforms that he’s initiated and undertaken, and some of those reforms have started bearing fruit..." Magwenya said.

Ramaphosa's re-election opens the way to a second term as South Africa's president, as the ANC have an absolute majority in parliament, which selects the head of state.

More than 4,300 delegates, gathered at a conference near Johannesburg, cast their ballots on Sunday to appoint top officials, including party president, deputy president, chair and secretary general,

The party's former treasurer, Paul Mashatile, emerged deputy president.

Ramaphosa, 70, won the contest despite being mired in accusations that he concealed the burglary of a huge amount of cash at his upmarket cattle farm.

Ramaphosa’s support within the ANC, from senior officials such as Faeez Jacobs, never wavered.

"We believed in him and we continued to push the renewal agenda. We’re very happy, over the moon, that our president has, very emphatically, demonstrated the confidence of all our branches. It is a unity and renewal vote of confidence in the presidency," Jacobs said.

As the nation's vice president, he ascended to the ANC's top job in December 2017 as his boss Jacob Zuma battled a mounting corruption scandal.

The following February, Zuma was forced out by the ANC.

Ramaphosa took office vowing to be weed out endemic corruption and renew the party.

But his clean-hands image has been dented by the burglary scandal.

He won a reprieve ahead of the conference when the ANC used its majority in parliament to block a possible impeachment inquiry.

His rival Mkhize hails from the same region as Zuma, the southeastern KwaZulu-Natal province which has the largest number of party delegates.

As health minister, the 66-year-old doctor was lauded for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

But his tenure ended abruptly when he resigned amid allegations his son and associates benefited from a 150-million-rand ($10.4-million) contract for a COVID awareness campaign. He denies any wrongdoing.

An organizational report presented at the conference showed that party membership had dropped by a third over the past five years. The next elections are due in 2024.

Political analyst Sam Mkhokheli says being at the conference was "like attending the ANC’s funeral."

"You can put money on it; the ANC will fall below 50% in the coming election. They seem not able to understand that. They seem unprepared to be dealing with the consequences or even doing a substantively different work and approach to avoid that," Mkhokheli said.

He says the party’s riddled with "criminals and incompetents" who won’t allow Ramaphosa to make the "sweeping good governance changes" necessary to turn South Africa around.

Information for this report came from Agence France-Presse and contributions from VOA reporter Darren Taylor.

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