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South Africa Vote gets under way for next ANC president

AFRICAN National Congress delegates finally began voting for their next president and other leading positions last night after exhaustive procedures to weed out those disqualified from participation.

While voting by the 4,776 delegates was expected to continue into the small hours of today, no results will be known before this morning.

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte told a press briefing at the Nasrec conference centre in Soweto that it had finally verified all the delegates who would take part in proceedings.

“There are around 4,700 delegates who have been verified … voting will start later this afternoon and results are likely to be announced tomorrow,” she explained.

“We had to delay credentials by a day due to court challenges in several provinces,” Ms Duarte added.

The key election is for the presidency — between current deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and former foreign minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who also headed the African Union commission.

Mr Ramaphosa was boosted by current chair Baleka Mbete’s withdrawal from the contest on Saturday night when she pledged to back him as the best long-term prospect for party and country.

“It’s no big deal really. It's the continuation of finalising the process on leadership,” she said.

“We publicly endorse comrade Cyril Ramaphosa and we agree on how to maximise issues of unity in the organisation.”

However, it remains too close to call the result since, while Mr Ramaphosa has more nominations than Ms Dlamini-Zuma, there are still many variables over how individual delegates may vote.

In his final address as ANC president on Saturday, President Jacob Zuma blamed ill-discipline among party cadres and factionalism for the organisation’s failures but made no mention of his own role in devaluing the ANC through corruption and a host of other scandals.

The president also announced that there would be free tertiary education for working-class students from 2018, in response to a series of student-led protests for free education in what became known as the Fees Must Fall movement.

“Students categorised as poor and working class, under the new definition, will be funded and supported through government grants not loans,” he said.

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