Posted Dec. 19, 2007 – In what international observers say has been the most divisive election ever in the region, Jacob Zuma defeated South African President Thabo Mbeki to take the helm of the nation’s ruling party.
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Zuma, Mbeki’s one-time friend turned foe, captured more than 60 percent (2,329) of the 3,834 delegates. Given the ANC’s power in South Africa, it is expected that Zuma would ascend to the presidency when Mbeki relinquishes the reins of power in 2009, which is required after serving two terms.
Mbeki succeeded the popular Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first Black president.
The announcement that Zuma was the new party leader triggered chants of "Zuma, Zuma," BBC News reported. Mbeki, in a show of sportsmanship after a long, unfriendly campaign, embraced Zuma and squeezed his hand in congratulation, according to the news agency. But many will be watching to see whether their new leader has the inclination, the charisma or the plan to help the nation heal and tackle the diverse challenges it faces.