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Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 10:59 GMT
Mbeki re-elected as ANC leader
Children in a Soweto township
Mr Mbeki spoke about poverty and racial equality
South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC) re-elected Thabo Mbeki as party leader on Monday, virtually guaranteeing he will remain president until 2009.

He was re-elected unopposed at the ANC's convention, automatically making him the movement's candidate for president in 2004.

South African President Thabo Mbeki
Mr Mbeki is likely to lead South Africa until 2009
In a two-hour address to the convention, Mr Mbeki spoke at length about the economy and racial equality.

However he said little about HIV/Aids or neighbouring Zimbabwe - among the continent's most pressing concerns - or about violent crime, a major domestic issue.

"Thank you for the confidence you have shown in your leadership. They will not disappoint your expectations," Mbeki told the delegates.

Mr Mbeki has his left-wing critics within the ANC and its allies, the Cosatu trade union and the South African Communist Party, but no one stood against him in the race for party president.

Non-racial society

Mr Mbeki said that South Africa still has a long way to go if it is to create a non-racial society.

The bulk of the economy - including the land - remains predominantly white-owned, nine years after the end of apartheid, he said.

Wealth, income, opportunity and skills continue to be distributed according to racial patterns

Thabo Mbeki
He told thousands of delegates from across the country that ANC policies are working and producing greater wealth for the black majority, but more rapid progress was needed.

A correspondent for the BBC says President Mbeki went out of his way to reach out to all factions in his party. Mr Mbeki stressed the importance of the alliance with the Communist party and the trade unions, and in a reference which won warm applause, he warned of growing corruption and careerism in the ANC.

President Mbeki was also particularly harsh in his criticisms of far right Afrikaner groups, who are reported to have launched a bombing campaign in recent weeks, saying they were forces of racism.

Apartheid birthplace

Divisions have been growing over Mr Mbeki's policies within the broad-based ANC, which refers to itself as a movement and not a party.

Many have expressed dismay at what they say is the government's failure to address poverty, unemployment and the Aids pandemic.

They also oppose the government's privatisation programmes.

But Mr Mbeki has defended the movement's direction.

Opinion polls released last week showed support for the ANC down from 66% at the 1999 election to approximately 50% now.

About 5,000 people - including 3,000 delegates with voting rights - are at the conference, which is the third since the party took power in 1994.

Ironically, it is being held at the Afrikaans-language Stellenbosch University, where the segregationist doctrine of apartheid was born in the 1940s.

The BBC's Barnaby Phillips
"In the run-up to this conference there has been plenty of talk of division"
See also:

15 Dec 02 | Africa
24 Nov 02 | Africa
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13 Dec 02 | Africa
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