President-in-Waiting Zuma Wins ANC Vote; Embrace: Thabo Mbeki, Left, Congratulates Jacob Zuma on His ANC Leadership Victory at the Party's Conference in Polokwane

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Byline: ED HARRIS

JACOB ZUMA is frontrunner to become the next president of South Africaafter he defeated president Thabo Mbeki to win the leadership of the country'sruling African National Congress.

Mr Zuma, whose political career has survived rape and corruption accusations,won the votes of more than 60 per cent of the party's delegates at a rowdy andoccasionally chaotic conference in the northern city of Polokwane.

His win followed one of the most divisive campaigns the party has seen. Of the3,834 votes cast, Mr Zuma received 2,329 to Mr Mbeki's 1,505.

Mr Zuma and his supporters also won a clean sweep of five other top positionsin the ANC.

The announcement of the result was greeted with chants of "Zuma, Zuma". Beforeleaving the platform, Mr Mbeki embraced Mr Zuma and clasped his bitter rival'shand in congratulation.

Mr Zuma had rallied ANC members who wanted a change from Mr Mbeki, who guidedpost-apartheid South Africa to sustained economic growth over the past fewyears. But he has been accused of moving too slowly to lift millions out ofpoverty.

Although he is strongly placed to become the next national president when MrMbeki has to stand down in 2009, Mr Zuma could still face corruption charges inconnection with a multi-million-pound arms deal.

Should he find himself back in court, the position of the deputy party leaderis likely to prove crucial.

The contest for deputy was won by Kgalema Motlanthe, previously ANC secretarygeneral and seen as close to Mr Zuma. …