By Robyn Dixon
7:45 AM PST, December 18, 2012
BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa -- Jacob Zuma, the South African president often criticized for ineffective leadership, on Tuesday won a second term as leader of the ruling African National Congress.
Zuma, a controversial figure who has faced frequent scandals, including the use of public money for renovations to his house and corruption charges that were inexplicably dropped in 2009, called for party unity after the vote and belted out a song.
The party conference also elected wealthy businessman and former unionist Cyril Ramaphosa as deputy party president, likely making him the next deputy president after general elections due in 2014.
Ramaphosa's wealth, which Forbes magazine estimates as $275 million, may make him a potential target for criticism in a country still struggling with deeply entrenched economic inequality. But his business credentials offer a chance for improvement in relations between the government and business, according to analysts.
Ramaphosa led the ANC's negotiations with the apartheid government to end the racist system, leading to the nation's first democratic vote in 1994. He left politics in 1997 after losing out in a bid to be the successor to Nelson Mandela, the nation's first black president, and instead went into business. Ramaphosa’s Shaduka group made a fortune and has interests in mining, fastfood, property and banking.
Zuma's call for unity came after his supporters sang deafening songs, whistled, cheered and blew plastic trumpets, taunting their defeated opponents as a party chaplain tried vainly to quieten them for a prayer.
But Zuma said his election and that of his allies must be seen as a decision of the whole party.
"The national conference has spoken, and all of us are part of that decision. I don't think we should continue to say some things, which I don't want to say, that would make another comrade not feel comfortable," Zuma told the crowd gathered in a giant sweltering tent, decked out in the party's colors of black, gold and green. "If you elected us as leaders of this organization, it must be a united organization, not a divided organization."
In the uproar that followed Zuma's victory, delegates clad in made-in-China ANC clothing sang, danced, stomped and captured images of each other with their iPhones and BlackBerries. Zuma won 2,983 votes, or about 75% of the total number of delegates, to 991 for his rival, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. The Zuma faction won a clean sweep of the top six leadership positions.
The election results came as four men, at least two from a tiny extremist organization, the Federale Vryheids Party, appeared in court on charges of terrorism and treason in connection with an alleged plot to explode a bomb at the conference and kill ANC leaders.
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