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Monday, September 20, 2010

Zuma faces battle at S.Africa's ANC policy meeting


South African President Jacob Zuma faces a major battle to shore up his authority this week when the ruling ANC meets to shape policies, notably on the strong rand and on left-wing calls for mine nationalisation.

The meeting of the African National Congress, which opened in the coastal city of Durban on Monday, marks one of the most important political events in years for the party, which has ruled since the end of apartheid in 1994.

The National General Council could leave Zuma weakened if he fails to hold on to old allies, who want left-leaning economic policies, or to win over some new ones.

With his term due to run until 2014, he is already widely seen as an ineffective leader. Former backers have indicated they may not support him for a second term, while economic growth looks set to slow in Africa's biggest economy, and a dispute that led to 1.3 million state workers going on strike has yet to be resolved.

"The difficulty for someone such as Zuma is that he has to appease so many different challenges and demands. And, being someone who is a consensus-seeking leader, you will always look weak in the process," said Roland Henwood at the University of Pretoria's Institute for Strategic and Political Affairs.

One of Zuma's main tasks is to repair an alliance with the powerful labour federation COSATU, strained by a three-week state workers' that was suspended earlier this month, and union accusations of cronyism and corruption in his government.

BILLIONS LOST TO CORRUPTION

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told delegates to the conference that the country has lost billions of rand through corruption.

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