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South Africa's ANC prepares to elect new leader

ANC finally verifies list of credible delegates to vote in landmark conference to elect leader to succeed Jacob Zuma.

ANC prepares

Voting for the next leader of South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), is expected to commence later on Sunday, the ANC has announced.

In a press briefing at Nasrec conference centre in Soweto, where the ANC is meeting for its 54th National Conference, Jessie Duarte, the party's deputy secretary-general, said that the ANC had finally verified all the delegates who would take part in proceedings.

"There are around 4,700 delegates who have been verified … voting will start later this afternoon, and results are likely to be announced tomorrow," Duarte said.

The five-day conference that began on Saturday has already suffered significant delays after the officials battled to vet the eligibility of delegates.

"We had to delay credentials by a day due to court challenges in several provinces," Duarte said.

The battle to succeed President Jacob Zuma has already threatened to split the 105-year-old organisation.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the former head of the AU Commission and President Zuma's ex-wife, are the frontrunners in a tense battle that will dictate the future of the popular party. It is yet unclear who will win.

Either way, analysts say the ANC faces an uphill battle to get the party back on track with South Africa struggling with low economic growth, high unemployment and rising dissent.

Ebrahim Fakir, independent political analyst, said that the ANC would battle to resuscitate its values.

"There is a deep crisis in the ANC and it goes to every single level, whether it is [the] policy or ideological outlook of the party or personalities or institutional and organisational [issues], or the policy making machine, [or] whether it's about the relationship between the policymakers and the parliamentary caucus and the members of the executive," he said. 

Fakir added that the fact that there were opposing visions within the ANC for the future of the party and the country, showed that the ANC were "at war with itself".

Pinning blame

In his final address as ANC president on Saturday, Zuma appeared to endorse Dlamini-Zuma when he said that it was a milestone that there were three female candidates for president.

He also blamed ill-discipline among party cadres and factionalism for the failures of the party, but made no mention of the numerous ways in which he had brought the party into disrepute over several allegations of corruption.

"President Zuma's unpersuasive and lacklustre report yesterday evening elicited a tepid response from an audience that remained unconvinced by his empty platitudes and pernicious blame-shifting for the state of weak governance in South Africa," Ayesha Omar, lecturer in political studies at Wits University, said.

Zuma also announced on Saturday that there would be free tertiary education for working class students from 2018. The move follows a series of student-led protests for free education in what became known as #FeesMustFall movement. 

"Students categorised as poor and working class, under the new definition, will be funded and supported through government grants not loans," a presidential statement said.

While the announcement has been welcomed in some quarters, and is been seen as a step in the right direction, it has also left in its wake, a series of unanswered questions over government's ability to fund the programme. 

Steven Friedman, Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg, told local media that he believed that it was a populist ploy to win votes at the ANC conference. 

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