* President Zuma seen as favourite to retain ANC top job
* His deputy Motlanthe is coy about launching challenge
PRETORIA Nov 30 The ANC in South Africa's
richest province backed Deputy President Kgalema Mothlanthe on
Friday as its choice for leader of the ruling party, keeping him
in the hunt for a position that would tee him up to be president
of Africa's biggest economy.
However, Motlanthe refused to immediately seize on the
support of African National Congress (ANC) members in Gauteng,
the province that includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, as the
chance to launch a formal challenge to President Jacob Zuma.
Zuma is firm favourite to win re-election to the helm of the
ANC at a party leadership conference next month, despite a slew
of scandals and sluggish economic growth in the three years
since he won the national presidency in elections.
He has also been criticised for his handling this year of
three months of violent labour unrest in the mining sector that
included the police killing of 34 striking platinum miners on
Aug. 16. The labour strife dented South Africa's image with
investors and led to downgrades by credit ratings agencies.
Speaking to the foreign media in Pretoria, Motlanthe said he
felt "neutral" about the Gauteng backing, adding that he was yet
to make up his mind whether or not to run against Zuma.
"I'm still agonising over it," he said.
Besides Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal - the province with the
biggest voting clout in the December ANC election - has come out
in support of Zuma, as has the smaller Free State.
South Africa's remaining six provinces are due to reveal
their decisions later on Friday and - barring any last minute
surprises - all the signs point to Zuma securing enough backing
at the Dec 16-20 conference to win re-election..
Zuma himself became leader of Nelson Mandela's 100-year-old
liberation movement in 2007 after spearheading a grassroots
internal campaign to unseat then president Thabo Mbeki, who was
seen by many ANC members as aloof and too pro-business.