JOHANNESBURG, Jubilant members of the African National Congress (ANC) are celebrating the outcome of the South African ruling party’s 54th National Elective Conference which saw party deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa being elevated to the top post to take over from current party president Jacob Zuma.

According to Sifiso Mfenyana, the chairperson of the conference electoral commission, Ramaphosa won the presidency with 2,440 votes while Dlamini-Zuma, a former Cabinet Minister and chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, received 2,261 votes.

Traffic has come to a standstill around Nasrec in Johannesburg where the conference is taking place as ANC delegates dance with music playing from loud speakers. Cars are also hooting as a sign of showing support for the happy ANC members.

One song that is constantly being sung here is “On your marks, get set, we are ready for Ramaphosa”.

Even though there are some members who say they were supporting Dr Dlamini-Zuma, a former wife of President Zuma, to take the top position in the straight fight for the party presidency, they too are celebrating.

We have our ANC back, shouted a jubilant ANC delegate as Cyril Ramaphosa was announced as the new President of the ANC. Other Ramaphosa supporters erupted with shouts of joy.

We are so happy with our new president. These things with the Guptas will end now, says Basebu Phopunyane, a party member from North West Province, in reference to members of an Indian immigrant business family accused of exercising undue influence over top leaders in the current administration of President Jacob Zuma, in a scandal referred to as “State Capture”.

This is the unity that we wanted. What happened here will unite the ANC. Come 2019 (when the next general election is due), we will not have any problems, said Ditshele Ramoenyana, also from North West.

“This (candidates) slate thing is not right. The slates did not win. It was the branches that decided, said Mdingi Jongintaba, a delegate from Mpumalanga Province. Jongintaba said the fact that people from both factions were included in the top six elective posts, is a win for the party, an indication of unity.

However, as Ramaphosa was announced as the new president, not all delegates in the hall were celebrating. Many of the delegates from KwaZulu-Natal Province, the home province of President Zuma, who supported Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the president’s former wife, looked on with somber faces.

President Zuma himself said he is humbled by having been given the opportunity to be president of the country, but is happy to be bowing out as ANC president.

As he went on a walkabout at the expo centre at Nasrec in Johannesburg where the conference is being held, Zuma said from the ANC’s point of view, the conference was like any other except that this time there were seven presidential hopefuls and that expressed the democratic nature of the ANC as well as the quality of the comrades in the organization.

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said the the election of Ramaphosa as ANC president is too late for the African National Congress and means very little for the people of South Africa who have been left behind in poverty and joblessness.

He said the ruling party is dead and cannot self-correct, no matter who is at the helm. This is because the party itself is held together only by the glue of patronage and corruption, and Cyril Ramaphosa is just a new face to the same old ANC.

The future of South Africa lies outside of the ANC, said Maimane. It is up to the voters to bring about total change by removing the ANC in 2019 and ushering a new beginning for South Africa.

According to Maimane, Ramaphosa now leads a deeply divided organisation, which has evolved into a self-serving party that has forgotten the poor and the jobless.

The truth is, no matter who leads the ANC, Cabinet and policy direction is determined by the party, and it has been these ANC policies that have sought to withdraw South Africa from the International Criminal Court (ICC), kept poor people locked out of the economy, captured the mining sector, chased after an unaffordable Nuclear Deal, and increased unemployment with now over 9 million South Africans without a job.

Maimane stated that Ramaphosa has stood in President Jacob Zuma’s shadow for years, silent in the face of his crimes and the crimes of fellow ANC comrades and that his election means that the corrupt system that is oppressing South Africans will continue.