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Tense vote count as S Africa's ANC elects new leader

Johannesburg: Vote counting began on Monday after thousands of delegates from South Africa's ruling ANC party cast ballots to choose their next leader, in an election seen as a decisive moment in the country's post-apartheid history. There are only two candidates in the hotly-contested race: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a wealthy businessman, and former minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is President Jacob Zuma's ex-wife.

Whoever wins will be well-placed to be South Africa's next president in the 2019 general election. Voting started soon after midnight on Sunday and continued for nearly 12 hours after repeated delays due to disputes over which delegates were qualified to vote. Hundreds of attendees were banned from the poll creating the risk of legal disputes.
The 4,776 delegates cast secret ballots for the six senior positions in the party, with the result expected later Monday.
Allegations swirled of delegates being targeted with bribes, but ANC spokesman Khusela Sangoni told reporters that the process had proceeded "smoothly".
On Sunday, rival supporters sang and chanted in the conference hall outside Johannesburg as the vote was repeatedly postponed as arguments raged over delegates' credentials.
"I have not slept for the past 24 hours, but I don't care," said Patience Nomodi, 62, a party member for 40 years, wearing an ANC blanket on her shoulders and supported by a yellow walking stick.
"I want a woman to be president before I die."
In the early hours of Monday, fatigued delegates wearing the ANC's official colours of yellow and green napped around the conference centre, while others prayed exuberantly for their chosen candidates. Ramaphosa-supporting delegate Siya Kolase told AFP after voting early Monday that he was confident his candidate would emerge victorious.
"He will address the issue of corruption. He is going to stabilise our economy," Kolase said.The ANC, which has ruled since 1994 when Nelson Mandela won the first multi-racial vote, could struggle to retain its grip on power in the 2019 election due to falling public support.

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