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A member of the Umkhonto We Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) stands guard at the ANC headquarters in downtown Johannesburg, South Africa, September 5, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) will announce current president Jacob Zuma's successor as party leader on Sunday as it looks to conclude a bruising leadership battle and focus on policy, a party spokesman told radio station 702 on Friday.

"On Sunday morning as we arrive we should be able to make an announcement of the top six and take nomination of the rest of the leadership. We need to take out this item from the conference agenda as quickly as possible," party spokesman Zizi Kodwa said.

The ANC holds an election this weekend to replace Zuma as party leader in a closely fought contest whose winner is likely to emerge as the nation's next president.

The front runners are Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a former trade union leader and one of South Africa's richest people, and Zuma's preferred candidate, his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former minister and chairwoman of the African Union Commission.

The top six lead the party's national executive committee which sets the tone for policy and the appointment of members of parliament.

The structure includes the president, deputy and key positions of secretary general and treasurer.

In the last 18 months, the executive has been the scene of fierce factional battles as Zuma's leadership came under scrutiny, particularly after the most recent cabinet reshuffle in March that saw Pravin Gordhan fired as finance minister.

In August, Zuma narrowly survived an umpteenth attempt in parliament to force him from office after some members of his party voted with the opposition.

(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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