JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has taken a lead in party nominations for the next leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), securing the support of 65 percent of branches tallied so far, a poll showed.
Hundreds of ANC branches across South Africa are nominating their choice for party president and other senior positions ahead of a December conference where about 5,000 delegates sent by the branches will cast their votes.
The ANC's next leader will probably become president of the country at a national election in 2019 given the party's electoral dominance.
Early indications are that party members are split between Ramaphosa, a former union leader and one of the country’s richest people, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former minister and ex-wife of President Jacob Zuma, for the party's top job.
The poll by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) found that Dlamini-Zuma had secured 30 percent of nominations and that ANC Treasurer General Zweli Mkhize received most of the remaining 5 percent of nominations.
The IRR said its data suggested 74 percent of ANC branches had made nominations and cautioned that it had not been able to corroborate its findings.
The ANC does not make the nomination tallies public.
A Ramaphosa win in December has tended to be viewed as the more positive outcome by investors, some of whom have been spooked by Dlamini-Zuma's campaign message of radical wealth redistribution.
Nominations do not necessarily translate into votes at the ANC's elective conference because delegates could vote for a different candidate than the one nominated by their branch.
Dlamini-Zuma's campaign says that many branches sympathetic to her are yet to submit their nominations, which could reduce Ramaphosa's lead or swing the outcome in December in her favor. Dlamini-Zuma is backed by the ANC's women's and youth leagues, which also vote in December.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning, Editing by William Maclean)