Rul­ing ANC kicks off South Africa elec­tion cam­paign

Times of Oman - - WORLD -

DUR­BAN: South African Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa on Satur­day launched the ANC’s cam­paign for leg­isla­tive elec­tions in May, ac­knowl­edg­ing the party’s past mis­takes and promis­ing to re­store demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions and eco­nomic growth.

Ramaphosa un­veiled a 68-page man­i­festo be­fore tens of thou­sands of sup­port­ers in the eastern city of Dur­ban, mark­ing the start of four months of hec­tic cam­paign­ing.

The African Na­tional Congress (ANC), which has ruled since the end of apartheid 25 years ago, is tipped to win the elec­tion in May de­spite fal­ter­ing sup­port, in­ter­nal di­vi­sions and a slug­gish econ­omy.

The party of Nel­son Man­dela suf­fered a slump in pop­u­lar­ity un­der the scan­dal-rid­den pres­i­dency of Ja­cob Zuma, who was ousted last Fe­bru­ary af­ter nine years at the helm.

But a re­cent IP­SOS sur­vey pre­dicted the ANC could gar­ner as much as 61 per cent in the na­tional and provin­cial elec­tions.

Fore­cast

At the leg­isla­tive level, that would put it on a par with its per­for­mance in 2014, when it picked up 62 per cent.

In South Africa’s par­lia­ment, the party which holds a ma­jor­ity of seats also se­lects the pres­i­dent.

The fore­cast up­swing is pinned on the ap­point­ment of mod­er­ate pro-busi­ness re­former Ramaphosa as pres­i­dent af­ter ANC law­mak­ers forced Zuma to re­sign as cor­rup­tion scan­dals piled up.

Ramaphosa ad­mit­ted the party has in re­cent times “fallen short” of ex­pec­ta­tions. “We must ac­knowl­edge that mis­takes have been made and that in some ar­eas trans­for­ma­tion has stalled,” he said.

“Af­ter a pe­riod of doubt and uncer­tainty, we have ar­rived at a mo­ment of hope and re­newal.

Op­por­tu­nity

“The 2019 elec­tions pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to re­store our demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions and to re­turn our coun­try to a path of trans­for­ma­tion, growth and de­vel­op­ment.”

He said at the cen­tre of the party man­i­festo is a plan to cre­ate jobs and en­sure de­cent wages.

He vowed to “in­ten­sify” the war against cor­rup­tion.

Tens of thou­sands of party ac­tivists dressed mostly in yel­low and green party colours con­verged at the 85,000-ca­pac­ity soc­cer sta­dium in the coastal city of Dur­ban for the cam­paign launch where they danced to mu­sic.

The sta­dium erupted into wild ap­plause when ex-leader Zuma joined a group of dancers on stage.

In a noisy and colour­ful dis­play, dozens of mo­tor­bike rid­ers fly­ing ANC flags, cir­cled the pitch - revving up their bikes to chants and ap­plause. In a bruis­ing in­ter­nal party bat­tle, Ramaphosa won a power strug­gle to suc­ceed Zuma, whose favoured can­di­date was Zuma’s for­mer wife.

Se­nior party of­fi­cials have this week fanned out across Kwa-Zulu Natal prov­ince - which has in re­cent years ex­pe­ri­enced a spate of killings of ANC of­fi­cials - spread­ing the mes­sage of a re­vived and uni­fied party.

Ramaphosa vowed work “more dili­gently” to get rid of fac­tion­al­ism and pa­tron­age, as he switched be­tween the coun­try’s 11 lan­guages, through­out his speech. Launch­ing its elec­tion man­i­festo in heav­ily-pop­u­lated KwaZulu-Natal — Zuma’s home prov­ince and for­mer strong­hold — is a strate­gic choice af­ter last year’s di­vi­sions.

Ramaphosa has pub­licly tried to mend ties, sit­ting next to Zuma and prais­ing him at party events.

In pol­icy terms, the man­i­festo is set to un­der­line the ANC’s com­mit­ment to land re­form to tackle racial in­equal­ity — set­ting the stage for one of the elec­tion’s fiercest bat­tle­grounds.

One of Ramaphosa’s flag­ship pledges is to change the con­sti­tu­tion to al­low land to be taken from mi­nor­ity white own­ers with­out com­pen­sa­tion — a plan aimed at at­tract­ing land­less black vot­ers but that has alarmed many for­eign in­vestors.

Man­i­festo

“In this man­i­festo, we out­line .... a plan to ac­cel­er­ate land re­form..., in­clud­ing, where ap­pro­pri­ate, ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion,” said Ramaphosa.

The South African econ­omy is fore­cast to have grown just 0.7 per­cent last year, with unem­ploy­ment re­main­ing at record highs of over 27 per cent.

The ANC will face the main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Al­liance and the rad­i­cal leftist Eco­nomic Free­dom Fighters party in the elec­tion.

Both par­ties hope to make gains due to the ANC’s poor re­cent record and dis­con­tent over stark post-apartheid in­equal­ity.

But they have strug­gled to dent the rul­ing party since Zuma’s fall.

Ramaphosa is eye­ing “a de­ci­sive vic­tory” in the elec­tions.

Un­em­ployed mother of six, Mar­riam Xobololo, 53, from the ru­ral area of eNg­cobo in the Eastern Cape prov­ince has voted for the ANC since 1994.

“When you join the ANC, it’s like when you ac­cept Christ in your heart. The ANC is just like Christ in my heart,” she said. “I will for­ever vote for ANC, and I will die and per­ish vot­ing for the ANC.”

- Reuters file photo

GAR­NER­ING SUP­PORT: South African Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa un­veiled a 68-page man­i­festo be­fore tens of thou­sands of sup­port­ers in the eastern city of Dur­ban, mark­ing the start of four months of hec­tic cam­paign­ing.

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