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African National Congress Selects New Leader


South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress, picked a new leader today. This means that Cyril Ramaphosa is poised to be the next president of South Africa when elections are held in 2019. Ramaphosa has promised to fight corruption and revitalize the economy. Reporter Peter Granitz has more from Johannesburg.

PETER GRANITZ, BYLINE: It took days of delays and then hours of waiting for the thousands of ANC delegates to hear the results. Party leaders took turns singing struggle songs at the microphone. And when elections officials ascended the stage, the room went quiet.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Comrade Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma received 2,261 votes, and comrade Cyril Ramaphosa received 2,440 votes.


GRANITZ: It was a narrow vote, but enough to launch Cyril Ramaphosa to the leadership of the 105-year-old political organization that led the fight against white minority rule.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We declare comrade Cyril Ramaphosa as the new president of the African National Congress.

GRANITZ: His election capped a bitterly fought race to replace Jacob Zuma, whose presidency has been dogged by scandals and allegations of corruption that tainted the party. Ramaphosa has been waiting for this moment for decades. He founded the National Union of Mineworkers and organized strikes that rattled the minerals-based apartheid economy. He helped lead the negotiations to transition from apartheid to democracy, and the first ANC president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, hoped Ramaphosa would succeed him.

When he did not win the ANC presidency then, he moved to the private sector and made a fortune in the mining and service sectors. He's seen as a reformer in the party. But political analyst Richard Calland says some of the people elected alongside Ramaphosa have been accused of corruption.

RICHARD CALLAND: He will have to use a lot of energy, a lot of political capital in managing that rather than in taking the decisive steps to give effect to the kind of New Deal economic vision that he's been trying to set out in his campaign.

GRANITZ: That will be a long-term task, and it needs to be resolved before the 2019 campaign. The ANC has seen its share of the electorate decline in each of the last elections. For NPR News, I'm Peter Granitz in Johannesburg.


Peter Granitz