South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress, has started counting votes to determine who will succeed controversial leader Jacob Zuma. The race is between Zuma's ex-wife and the current deputy president.
Vote counting has begun in the race to determine the next leader of South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) party.
It is expected to be a close race but there is a sense among party members that Cyril Ramaphosa will eke out a win over Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, according to DW correspondent Sabry Govender, who is attending the party congress.
"There's a strong belief that Ramaphosa will emerge victorious over Dlamini-Zuma," Govender writes.
Some 4,776 ANC delegates began casting their ballots in the early hours of Monday to choose between Deputy President Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma, who is a former cabinet minister and President Jacob Zuma's ex-wife .
The outcome of the vote will decide the future of South Africa's ruling party as they choose a successor to President Jacob Zuma on the third day of the party's five-day congress. The winner will have a strong chance of becoming the country's next president in the next election, slated for 2019.
Plagued by scandal
The ANC, which has been the majority party since Nelson Mandela won the first multiracial elections in 1994, is currently in danger of losing power after a drop in public opinion. Zuma's presidency has been marred by graft scandals which have damaged the image of the party.
Zuma, who is not expected to step down before the next election in 2019, refused to take responsibility for his party's demise during his keynote speech on Saturday, instead slamming "biased" media, the judiciary and party infighting.
"Petty squabbling that takes us nowhere needs to take a back seat; our people are frustrated when we spend more time fighting among ourselves instead of solving the daily challenges they experience," he said. "Factionalism has become the biggest threat to our movement."
Zuma also announced plans to boost subsidies for universities and tertiary colleges, a move analysts said was an attempt to court the party's more populist members allied to Dlamini-Zuma.
It is unclear who will win, but Ramaphosa had the backing of 1,469 ANC branches compared to Dlamini-Zuma's 1,094.
Without saying so explicitly, Zuma has made it evident that he favors his ex-wife, who could protect him from prosecution over corruption charges.
Ramaphosa has received endorsements from the outgoing ANC national chairwoman and Zuma ally, Baleka Mbete. He has also received backing of the business community and the powerful COSATU trade union federation.
Critics have said the ANC has to get rid of Zuma's faction in order for the country to move forward.
The vote will also decide on other party positions, including deputy president, chairperson and secretary general.
bik,nm/ng (AFP, dpa)