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Motlanthe to challenge Zuma for ANC leadership: report

South Africa’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe will challenge incumbent President Jacob Zuma for leadership of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) at a five-yearly party conference which begins on Sunday, local media reported.

Three local radio stations, including state-backed SAfm, reported they had “reliably learnt” that Motlanthe would accept branch-level nominations to lead the storied party.

After months of studied silence, Motlanthe’s decision would set the stage for a leadership battle when 4,500 senior ANC members gather in Bloemfontein on Sunday.

Whoever wins is likely to become president of South Africa after elections in 2014.

The party and President Zuma have been enmeshed in a storm of criticism about the ANC’s failure to improve the lives of poor black South Africans, traditionally its core constituency, and a series of corruption scandals.

Motlanthe, a former trade union leader, briefly served as interim president of the country in 2008-2009 after Thabo Mbeki stepped down following his own leadership battle with Zuma.

A native of Johannesburg’s Alexandra township, Motlanthe was once a member of the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe.

But he faces an uphill struggle to wrest control of the party from Zuma, who appears to have the backing of a majority of the provincial party branches.