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Cyril Ramaphosa elected as new leader of South Africa’s ANC

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Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s deputy president, has been elected the new president of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, bringing president Jacob Zuma’s troubled leadership of Africa’s storied liberation movement to an end.

Thousands of enthusiastic delegates dressed in the party’s trademark yellow and green colors burst into thunderous applause and dance as the election results were announced at a conference center on the outskirts of Johannesburg, where the ANC met for the first time in 1990 after the ban was lifted on the organisation.

The move puts Mr Ramaphosa, a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle and one of South Africa’s wealthiest citizens, in position to become the next president of the country, as the ANC still holds a voting majority.

The vote also puts to bed a bitter election battle with fellow challenger Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is 68 and the mother of four of Mr Zuma’s children. Critics saw her bid for presidency as potentially damaging to the party given her close proximity to Mr Zuma and the corruption scandals that have dogged his most recent years in power.

Mr Zuma’s term as head of state will be up in 2019 when national elections are scheduled to be held. David Mabuza, premier of Mpumalanga province, was chosen as Mr Ramaphosa’s deputy president of the party.

Mr Ramaphosa, a 65-year-old lawyer and businessman, inherits one of the world’s greatest liberation movements, but one whose reputation has been battered by corruption scandals and failures to deliver on the promises of a free South Africa.

Hopes are running high that Mr Ramaphosa is up to the task. During the run-up to the vote, he promised to reform the ruling party and has called the corruption allegations that make daily headlines in the country “the enemy of the people”.

“The overall sentiment across a large body of ordinary south Africans will certainly be uplifted as a result of his victory,” says Daniel Silke, an independent political analyst. “There will be a sense of relief of many South Africans.”

Mr Ramaphosa’s candidacy has been favored by investors who see him as the best bet for getting the nation’s sluggish economy and unpredictable policy environment back on track.

“There is going to be a renewed confidence immediately,” said William Gumede, executive chairperson of the Democracy Works Foundation. “The country is in paralysis. Business is not investing because they are uncertain. There’s paralysis in the state also.”

Cyril Ramaphosa, 65, was born in Johannesburg and is a veteran of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle. He was detained in 1976 after the Soweto student uprising and was later the head of the ANC negotiation team that helped bring an end to the country’s oppressive system of white-minority rule.

A former union leader and trained lawyer, Mr Ramaphosa has become one of the country’s richest citizens in a democratic South Africa and has a well-known interest in the country’s wild game industry.

In 2012, he was a non-executive director of the mining company Lonmin when police shot and killed 34 striking miners at the Marikana platinum mine. Some South Africans think he did not do enough to intervene.

Mr Ramaphosa has been at center of the ANC movement for years but has been passed over for the top job until now. Nelson Mandela reportedly wanted Mr Ramaphosa to follow him as president, but Thabo Mbeki was chosen instead. He was appointed deputy president of the country in May 2014.

Mr Ramaphosa has promised to reform and unite a deeply divided ANC after it has been bruised by a series of high-profile corruption scandals.

In an early sign of the direction the race was heading, senior ANC leaders made the unusual move of offering the deputy president their support in the early hours of Monday on social media.

 “Am casting my vote for comrade Ramaphosa for ANC President,” National Spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said on Twitter early Monday. “Whatever happens I trust he will restore confidence and inspire hope.”

For the last three days, more than 4,700 party delegates from around the country have been hunkered down to prepare for the historic decision to elect the next leader of Nelson Mandela’s bruised liberation struggle.

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