SAfrica’s ANC launches wish list to woo disgruntled voters
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma on Friday launched the ruling ANC party's election manifesto, hoping to help woo voters increasingly frustrated with persistent poverty, joblessness and corruption.
The party of the late Nelson Mandela has in recent years been battered by accusations of graft and blamed for failing to spark greater economic growth.
“We must therefore intervene decisively to take our economy forward,” Zuma told hundreds of party bigwigs and supporters at an African National Congress dinner on the eve of the campaign launch.
General polls are due in the first half of this year but the date is yet to be announced.
“The manifesto talks to what we will do, build an inclusive economy that creates jobs, transform our rural areas and… fight corruption and crime,” said Zuma.
He did not reveal the details of the “wonderful” manifesto saying they will be made public at a rally on Saturday.
Despite its ranking as Africa’s richest country and 20 years after the fall of apartheid, South Africa is still dogged by high levels of inequality and joblessness rates are growing stubbornly high.
“That is why the manifesto focuses a great deal on ensuring that we have the kind of policies that will help us reduce inequality, create jobs and systematically and progressively eradicate poverty,” Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom told AFP.
ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa told reporters that “the economy is going to be featuring much more strongly in terms of what we want to achieve”.
He described the text as “actually one of our best manifestos”.
Facing one of its toughest elections ever, the ANC is expected to also focus its energy on rallying young voters.
For the first time, South Africans born after the end of apartheid, so-called “born-frees”, will be casting ballots.
Yet they are the generation at the receiving end of slowing economic growth and dwindling job opportunities.
“The ANC faces it biggest challenge amongst younger South Africans,” said political analyst Daniel Silke.
“The younger voter or first-time voter is much more questioning, they are more discerning, they are going to need to be convinced to vote for the ANC,” added Silke.
The manifesto hinges around the so-called National Development Plan, which Zuma painstakingly defended during his speech but is opposed by some of his allies in the labour movement who see it as neo-liberal.
Despite growing unpopularity, the ANC is still expected to win the polls, but could see a drop in its share of the vote to under 60 percent.
Zuma this week vowed that the ANC would govern South Africa “forever and ever”.
He said the party which turned 102 years old on Tuesday, was on “a journey that is long.”
“It’s still a long walk to prosperity,” said Zuma, borrowing a phrase from Mandela’s autobiography “Long Walk To Freedom”.
Among those challenging the ANC in this year’s vote will be populist politician Julius Malema, a former party youth leader who was expelled in 2012.