South Africa’s African National Congress party (ANC) is set to announce the successor to President Jacob Zuma as the party leader.
Sunday’s vote is crucial because the person who emerges top is likely to become the country’s next president after elections in 2019.
After lengthy delays on the first day of the ANC conference on Saturday, the leadership contest was still too close to call, with most grassroots ANC members backing Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa or Zuma’s preferred candidate, his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, 68.
In a race seen as too close to call, seven candidates are seeking to succeed Zuma, who has been at the helm of the party for a decade.
The main ANC leadership hopefuls are Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Zuma’s preferred candidate, his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Dlamini-Zuma is a former minister and chairwoman of the African Union Commission. She has served in the cabinets of every South African president in the post-apartheid era.
Dlamini-Zuma was married to President Zuma for over a decade and has four children with him.
She is backed by the ANC’s influential women’s and youth leagues, as well as by Zuma and provincial party leaders close to him.
Ramaphosa is the deputy president and former trade union leader.
He played an important role in the negotiations to end apartheid and in the drafting of South Africa’s progressive 1996 constitution.
The deputy president is supported by a diverse group of labour unions, communists and ANC members disillusioned with Zuma.
Mkhize is the party’s treasurer general, and one of the ruling party’s “top six” senior leaders.
Some analysts see Mkhize as a compromise candidate for ANC leader who could reconcile the opposing factions supporting Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa.
Sisulu is the human settlements minister. She is the daughter of anti-apartheid activist Walter Sisulu, a close friend of Nelson Mandela.
The ANC executive has been the scene of fierce factional battles in the last 18 months as Zuma’s leadership came under scrutiny, particularly after the most recent cabinet reshuffle in March.
In August, Zuma narrowly survived an umpteenth attempt in parliament to force him from office after some members of his party voted with the opposition.
Zuma said last week he was “very happy” to be stepping down as ANC president. He can remain as head of state until 2019.