Motlanthe to challenge Zuma for ANC leadership

12th December 2012, Comments 0 comments

South Africa's Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe will challenge incumbent President Jacob Zuma for the leadership of the ruling African National Congress and the country, a source close to Motlanthe told AFP Wednesday.

"Yes, of course he will stand," the source said on condition of anonymity, setting up a leadership battle at a five-yearly party conference which begins on Sunday.

Around 4,500 senior ANC members will gather in Bloemfontein to select the party leader, who is also likely to run Africa's largest economy until 2019 thanks to the party's electoral dominance.

The announcement ends months of speculation about whether Zuma -- who has been dogged by allegations of corruption and mismanagement -- would be challenged.

During Zuma's tenure, the ANC has been rattled by criticism that it has failed to improve the lives of poor black South Africans, traditionally its core constituency.

In a speech late Wednesday, Motlanthe did not directly announce his candidature, but had a stern message about the health of the party.

"We should stop the culture of corruption that is creeping within our rank, corroding our value system and undermining the memory of thousands of leaders... who have ensured that the ground is prepared for a free and democratic society that we are taking for granted today," he said.

Motlanthe, a former trade union leader, briefly served as interim president of the country in 2008-2009.

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

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.

But victory is not impossible.

Five years ago at an edition of the same ANC conference Zuma successfully wrested control of the party from Thabo Mbeki, who was then forced to resign the presidency.

© 2012 AFP

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