SOUTH African President Jacob Zuma scored a thumping victory in the ANC leadership contest on Tuesday, opening the way for him to lead the country until 2019.
Zuma won the backing of 75.1% of the 3 977 ANC voting delegates at the national elective conference in Mangaung, making him the odds-on favourite to retain the presidency after 2014 general elections.
Businessman Cyril Ramaphosa won the deputy presidency of the party with 76.4% of the vote in a three-way race, beating Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and setting him up to become Zuma's potential eventual successor and country president.
The vote took place despite the conference being threatened by rightwing extremists.
Police said four men plotted to kill Zuma, Motlanthe, government ministers and senior party officials. The men were charged with treason and terrorism.
Inside the conference there were also plots and intrigue.
Zuma had faced an embarrassing, if lacklustre, leadership challenge from his deputy, Motlanthe, who won 991 of the votes.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and chairperson Baleka Mbete were re-elected to their positions, with newcomers being deputy secretary general Jesse Duarte and treasurer general Zweli Mkhize, who is also the premier of Zuma's home province KwaZulu-Natal.
The scale of Zuma's victory, dubbed a "Zumanami," will take some of the heat of the embattled president.
But after three crisis-marked years in power, Zuma faces a tough slog ahead.
He will have to work hard to win back South African voters, who increasingly see the ANC as out of touch, incompetent and corrupt.
Zuma's poll numbers have steadily eroded amid a series of scandals.
Criticism of his administration reached a crescendo earlier this year when police killed 34 striking miners in one day and it emerged that around R200m of taxpayers' money had been used to refurbish his private home.
A TNS South Africa poll released on Monday showed Motlanthe's approval ratings at 70%, while Zuma polled 52% - less than the ANC's total at the last elections.
Despite public anger at the state of the country, the ANC is likely to romp home in 2014.
The ANC has consistently received around two thirds of the vote in previous elections since the end of apartheid.
But a poor showing could exacerbate divisions within the ANC.
With the opposition Democratic Alliance gaining traction in their personalised attacks on Zuma, the ANC could face a tough scrap to retain control of provinces like Gauteng.
Zuma will also face an uphill struggle to correct the course of the ailing South African economy.
Unemployment remains stuck around 25% and the economy is growing at its slowest rate in three years.
Meanwhile crucial sectors like mining have been hobbled by strikes over low wages and are struggling to modernise and reduce reliance on masses of cheap labour.
Credit ratings agencies have warned that further rating downgrades will come if the conference does not see the ANC change course.
Opening the five-day meeting Zuma tried to reassure investors that he does not back calls for mass nationalisations and that the country is not "falling apart".
The election of Ramaphosa as deputy head of the party - putting him firmly in line to become deputy president - may also assuage industry's fears.
"We are somewhat sceptical of the impact Ramaphosa can make though the market may interpret him, plus Zuma backing the National Development Plan as being a real positive," said Peter Attard Montalto, an analyst with Japanese bank Nomura.
"What we may have here then is a positive PR boost plus another investor friendly voice in cabinet but little real change on the ground and in action."
For Motlanthe the outlook seems bleak.
He ran a largely silent campaign that has sometimes appeared more like a protest than a real run at the top office in the country. Defeat leaves him in the political wilderness, with uncertainty even he will remain as the country's deputy president.