South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has elected Cyril Ramaphosa, the country’s current Deputy President, as its new leader.
Given the ANC’s sizable majority in parliament, Ramaphosa is now best placed to become the country’s next president when Jacob Zuma’s presidential term runs out in 2019.
Sixty-five-year-old Ramaphosa was one of two favorites to become ANC leader at the party conference in Johannesburg this week.
He beat former cabinet minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, head of the African Union, in what was at times a tense and bitterly divided leadership battle, winning by the slim margin of just 179 delegate votes.
The question now becomes whether the other side accepts the final result or challenges the vote in the courts.
Ramaphosa made his name as a trade union leader during the apartheid era and as the chief negotiator who helped shepherd the ANC during the political transition.
He was handpicked by former President Nelson Mandela to be his heir but lost out Thabo Mbeki, a struggle leader who came to South Africa from exile. Ramaphosa left government afterward and made his fortune in the business world.
However, since returning to public life he has spoken out against corruption in the country and has found significant support in urban areas, in the business community and among ANC stalwarts.
Shortly before his victory was announced, Ramaphosa and members of the ANC leadership were seen shaking hands and congratulating each other while waiting delegates sang and danced around the hall.
Over the years many South African voters have become disillusioned by the ANC, which has seen support slip as Zuma faces hundreds of allegations of corruption and fraud. Many will be hoping that Ramaphosa’s selection signals a rebirth of the once-proud party.