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Ramaphosa Seeks ANC Re-election

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa bows his head during a prayer service at the start of the 55th National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, December 16, 2022.

South Africa's ruling ANC was due to elect a new leader this weekend after the country's embattled president Cyril Ramaphosa pitched to steer the graft-tainted party for a second term.

Despite a damaging cash-heist scandal and vociferous internal opposition, Ramaphosa, 70, is tipped to win re-election as the head of the African National Congress (ANC) at a five-day party conference that kicked off on Friday.

After 28 years in power, the party shaped by Nelson Mandela to spearhead the struggle to end apartheid faces deep rifts and declining support.

Its image has been stained by corruption, cronyism, nepotism and a lackluster economic record.

In a three-hour-long address on Friday, Ramaphosa sought to project confidence and authority, cautioning South Africans "expect us to have the courage and the honesty to recognize our shortcomings and the resolve to correct them".

Almost three decades after the end of white-minority rule, unemployment and crime rates are sky high, poverty and inequality remain widespread, and power cuts have hit record levels amid a worsening energy crisis.

The conference was running well behind schedule on Saturday, after starting several hours late the day before.

But party officials said the party's more than 4,000 delegates were still expected to vote for their new leader.

The delays caused some to grumble.

"It is extremely frustrating," one delegate from the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province who preferred not to give his name.

On Friday, dozens of delegates - largely supporters of corruption-tainted former president Jacob Zuma who was forced out by Ramaphosa - heckled the current South African leader, chanting "Change! Change!" and banging on their tables.

Ramaphosa called for "discipline" and "political consciousness" urging attendees to debate issues instead of "shouting" and "howling at each other."