Ruling ANC kickstarts South Africa election season with slew of pledges

DURBAN, South Africa (AFP) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled the ANC’s election manifesto yesterday with pledges to transform the economy and fight corruption as the ruling party tries to woo voters.

Ramaphosa released details of the 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.

A member of the ruling African National Congress with a South African flag at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban, South Africa. – AP

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.

In an address earlier this week marking 107 years since the party was founded, Ramaphosa admitted that in “recent times, our movement has fallen short of our people’s expectations”.

And at a dinner last Friday night he said some South Africans “tell harrowing stories about what has not changed” since the end of apartheid in 1994.

“Our manifesto is a coherent and bold plan for a better life for all, addressing the persistent realities of unemployment, poverty and inequality,” he said.

The ANC now has a clear plan to boost the economy, create jobs and reduce inequality, he said.

“We will step up the fight against corruption throughout society and safeguard the integrity of the state”.

Tens of thousands of party activists dressed mostly in yellow party colours converged at the 85,000-seater football stadium in the coastal city of Durban for the launch of the manifesto where they danced to music.

In a noisy and colourful display, dozens of motorbike riders flying ANC flags, circled the pitch – revving up their bikes to chants and applause from supporters on the terraces.

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 the surrounding Kwa-Zulu Natal province, spreading the message of a revived and unified party.