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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The youth arm of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) said on Tuesday it will back Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former chair of the African Union and President Jacob Zuma's ex-wife, to be the party's next leader.
The Youth League joins the ANC Women's League, the party's military veterans and Zuma himself in endorsing Dlamini-Zuma ahead of a leadership contest in December where her main opponent is likely to be Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Dlamini-Zuma, a medical doctor who served as health minister under former president Nelson Mandela, has pledged to address the gaping inequality between blacks and whites that still exists 23 years after the end of apartheid.
Ramaphosa, a unionist-turned-billionaire businessman, is more investor friendly and has the support of powerful trade unions and sections of the top party leadership.
"Amongst the leadership qualities we are looking for is an uncompromising commitment to 'radical economic transformation'," the youth league said in a statement, echoing a phrase used frequently by Zuma and Dlamini-Zuma in recent weeks.
"They must expand economic participation to the majority of our people by breaking the stranglehold of white monopoly capital."
This should include redistributing land from white elites to the black majority without compensation, providing free education, improving healthcare and launching a state bank to improve infrastructure, the youth league said.
The ANC has become increasingly divided over Zuma's leadership in recent months due to a series of corruption scandals, a much-criticised cabinet reshuffle and a failure to handle an economy that has slipped into recession.
Zuma can remain head of state until an election 2019 but his opponents inside the ANC would like to remove him as president once he steps down as party leader, making it important for him to ensure a loyalist succeeds him.
The youth league endorsed Zuma loyalists for other top ANC positions, including the ANC's leader of Mpumalanga province David Mabuza for deputy president and the party's head of Free State province Ace Magashule for secretary general.
Reporting by Joe Brock, editing by Ed Osmond