Jacob Zuma is in line to become president of South Africa in 2009 after the country’s ruling party elected him leader today, Reuters reports. The beloved but controversial populist won easily over current President Thabo Mbeki, bringing jubilation from his supporters but raising questions about the country’s economic future, rifts within the ANC, and Mbeki’s remaining time in office.
Zuma has remained popular despite looming bribery charges and his acquittal in a rape case last year. He steadily gained momentum over Mbeki, who was viewed as not doing enough to help poor blacks. As a lame duck president, Mbeki, who took over leadership of the ANC from Nelson Mandela in 1997, could end up stepping down before his term is up.