South Africa's deeply divided ruling African National Congress (ANC) is set to vote for a new party leader. The party of freedom icon Nelson Mandela has been embroiled in a bitter battle over who will replace Jacob Zuma.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (left) and Cyril Ramaphosa go head-to-head over who will replace Jacob Zuma as ANC leader
The heat is on as delegates of the deeply divided African National Congress (ANC) gather on Saturday for a four-day conference to elect a new party leader to replace South African President Jacob Zuma.
Seven candidates are in the running for the post. The front runners are Zuma's deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, a former trade union leader and one of South Africa's richest men, and Zuma's ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
It's been a tight battle so far with five of the country's nine provinces - Gauteng, Limpopo, Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape - backing Ramaphosa, while KwaZulu-Natal, North-West, Mpumalanga and the Free State are in favor of Dlamini-Zuma.
Zuma has been pushing his ex-wife, former African Union chairperson Dlamini-Zuma.
The ANC's alliance partners, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the Communist Party are backing Ramaphosa, as is the ANC's Veterans League.
The ANC's Women's League and Youth League are for Dlamini-Zuma.
Zuma said last week he was "very happy" to be stepping down as ANC president. His presidential term runs out in 2019.
The ANC top job is important as the leader is poised to become South Africa's next president should the ANC win elections in 2019.
Ramaphosa vs. Dlamini-Zuma
Deputy Ramaphosa said he was "happy with the way the nominations processes have gone" and stressed he was hoping for a successful and peaceful conference in Johannesburg (December 16 to 20).
Some people are in favor of Zuma's deputy Ramaphosa, who has vowed to improve South Africa's economy
He said if he was elected he would make the economy a priority. He vowed to tackle extreme unemployment, poverty and inequality.
His rival Dlamini-Zuma promised to deliver radical economic transformation. "If I win I will be engaging all players," she told DW.
Political analyst Professor Lesiba Teffo says while both Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma were capable leaders, he was concerned about the corruption image plaguing the ANC.
"They use the privileges to enrich themselves," he said. "They use politics for self-enrichment who otherwise would have been ordinary people. Had they not ridden on the political ticket of the ANC, perhaps some of them even riding on the corpses of former comrades to get where they are."
South Africans divided over leadership question
South Africans are divided over who they think will be best for the country.
Entrepreneur Sipho Tabethe said he would choose Ramaphosa as a "person with a very proven track record", adding that in terms of business prospects, he would be a much better candidate leading the country forward by creating jobs.
That view was echoed by student Emmanuel Ndlovu, who said he would be able to handle the unemployment situation in South Africa. "I would like to see him as the next President of South Africa," he said.
Zuma's ex-wife Dlamini-Zuma should become the next ANC leader, according to some South African supporters
Businessman Duduzu Ndlovu however believes the top post - and ultimately the presidency - should go to Dlamini-Zuma. "She's been a very good leader. I think she can do a better job," he said. "Dlamini-Zuma is the right candidate for me at the moment."
Other people were not impressed by either candidate and were hoping for new leadership.
"Dlamini-Zuma has failed even at the AU and Ramaphosa is a friend of the white monopoly capitalists who are eating from the poor," said Johannesburg resident Cebo Ngcobo. "I don't have any confidence in them," he added.
"I also have no confidence in the current crop of leadership that the ANC has," said Sizwe Dlamini.
"Come 2019 I don't see the ANC emerging as a majority party. The best thing is going to happen is that we are going to see a coalition government. And we are going to see a person emerging from outside the ANC."