By Marius Bosch and Peroshni Govender

JOHANNESBURG/DURBAN, Sept 22 (Reuters) - South Africa'sruling ANC elects a new leader in 2012 but positioning for thecountry's top job has already begun with Deputy PresidentKgalema Motlanthe seen as favourite.

Although the question of who will become the next partyleader -- and almost certainly South African president in 2014-- is not on the agenda of the ANC's week-long policy reviewNational General Council this week, African National Congressofficials and party sources say lobbying has already started.

ANC officials say it is unlikely that President Jacob Zumawould be elected for a second term as leader of the party thathas ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.

He has alienated the two blocs that helped push him to power-- the powerful COSATU labour federation and the ANC YouthLeague with labour calling its relations with the partydysfunctional.

Zuma's colourful personal life and lingering reports ofcronyism could also further rule out a second term.

"We knew Zuma came with baggage but what we didn't expectwas the open abuse (cronyism)," one senior party official said.

ANC officials have privately expressed dismay over a recentblack empowerment deal in which black investors -- includingZuma's 28-year-old son and businessmen linked to the president-- bought a 26 percent stake worth over 9 billion rand ($1.28billion) in steelmaker ArcelorMittal South Africa.

COSATU and the ANC Youth League also criticised the deal.


Motlanthe, 61, was South Africa's caretaker president forseven months to May 2009 after the ANC sacked Zuma's predecessorThabo Mbeki.

He has said he is not interested in doing the job again butsenior ANC leaders are backing him and analysts say he would bewelcomed by investors.

"It would be a great shame if he were to truly rule himselfout, though previous ANC leaders have always said you cannotrefuse when you are chosen to lead it. He would be a very marketpositive figure," said Peter Attard Montalto, emerging marketseconomist at Nomura International.

Motlanthe has broad support within the ANC and the respectof COSATU and the Youth League.

"There are many people in the party who see Motlanthe as thestabiliser who will improve the image of the party," another ANCofficial said.

Analysts say the ANC's National General Council -- whichends on Friday -- signals the start of the leadership tussle.

"All of the jostling for 2012 is actually about the positionof Deputy President of the ANC. So if they don't go for Zuma fora second term -- which is an increasingly strong likelihood --it is almost certain that Kgalema Motlanthe would be thecandidate," said independent political analyst Nic Borain.

ANC sources say Tokyo Sexwale, a billionaire businessman andnow the country's housing minister, backed Motlanthe for thepresidency.

Financing a presidential campaign will not be a problem forSexwale and ANC insiders say he is eyeing the position of deputypresident under Motlanthe.

Sexwale will also be a market friendly choice but could riskopposition from the left due to his pro-business stance.

"I think there is no one on the left who can lead the ANCand that we may well swing back to the centre ground under a newleader. Apart from Motlanthe, I think Sexwale will still be inthe frame and people keep mentioning his name to me, again hewould be a market positive guy," said Nomura's Attard Montalto. (Editing by Charles Dick)