Cyril Ramaphosa has been chosen to succeed President Jacob Zuma as the leader of South Africa’s ruling party African National Congress (ANC).
The 65-year-old millionaire narrowly beat Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in a vote of party delegates and will be the ANC’s candidate for president when Jacob Zuma stands down as head of state in 2019.
Mr Ramaphosa, a former miners’ union leader and one of South Africa’s richest businessmen, has been the ANC’s deputy president since December 2012.
The veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle pitched himself as a reform candidate, despite being accused of failing to confront Mr Zuma over numerous corruption claims.
Ms Dlamini-Zuma is President Zuma’s ex-wife and a former government minister for health and foreign affairs.
The 68-year-old candidate promised “radical economic transformation” but her campaign was dented by suggestions she could be influenced by her ex-husband.
The popularity of the ANC has fallen sharply in recent years amid political scandals and a dwindling economy.
Last year, the party won under 60% of the votes in municipal elections for the first time since Nelson Mandela took power in 1994.
Mr Zuma has survived a series of no-confidence votes following claims he granted the wealthy Gupta family, who emigrated to South Africa from India in 1993, influence over cabinet appointments.
Meanwhile, the country’s economy fell into recession earlier this year, before rebounding to 2.5% growth.
South Africa has an unemployment rate of nearly 30% and is considered as one of the most unequal societies in the world.
The country’s top 10% of earners received 66% of the national income, according to the 2018 World Inequality Report.
ANC’s falling popularity has prompted speculation the party may call on Mr Zuma to resign before the presidential election in 2019.
“The party will decide if Zuma goes (before 2019),” said Mzwandile Mkhwanazi, an ANC delegate from KwaZulu-Natal province.
“Ramaphosa’s victory is good for the country. We need a stable country, a president able to fight corruption. We think he is up to the task.”