South Africa’s deputy-president, Cyril Ramaphosa has been elected leader of the ruling African National Congress, a pole position that will make him president of the country in 2019.
Ramaphosa emerged the winner in the tightest election for the party leadership ever, beating Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, President Jacob Zuma’s former wife and chairperson of the African Union.
The former trade unionist beat Dlamini-Zuma with just 150 votes, winning 2441 votes to his challenger’s 2261 votes.
Observers of South Africa’s politics believe that Ramaphosa’s victory may quicken President Jacob Zuma’s end in office.
Another election for the country’s presidency is not due until 2019.
Zuma backed his wife, who was also a former minister under Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.
Mr Ramaphosa, a former trade unionist and businessman campaigned on a promise to root out corruption and save the ANC from losing its majority for the first time at the 2019 election.
Also elected are David Mabuza as Deputy President,Gwede Mantashe as chairperson, Ace Magashule as secretary-general, Jessie Duarte as deputy secretary-general and Paul Mashatile as Treasurer-general.
Mr Ramaphosa, 65, has spoken out strongly against state corruption and has the backing of the business community.
He campaigned as the anti-Zuma candidate, promising to target corruption, and his victory could mean that the ANC decides to recall Mr Zuma as national president in the next few weeks.
The ANC recalled Mr Zuma’s predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, in 2008 after Mr Zuma replaced him as ANC leader the previous year.
Ms Dlamini-Zuma, 68, had been critical of the enduring power of white-owned businesses and had pledged to tackle what she said was continued racial inequality.
Analysts said that Mr Zuma had backed his former wife.