ANC vows bitter anti-graft fight

2014-01-11 20:17
President Jacob Zuma (Marco Longari, AFP)

President Jacob Zuma (Marco Longari, AFP)

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Nelspruit - President Jacob Zuma on Saturday pledged to fight corruption and battle poverty and inequality as he launched the ANC campaign ahead of a tough election this year.

"The ANC government remains very clear that corruption must be fought wherever it occurs and in all its manifestations," said Zuma.

"We shall continue to work with all sectors of society and all our anti-corruption agencies to address this scourge."

The government has faced high-level graft since it came to power 20 years ago amid persistent poverty and rising inequality.

"We are confident that the ANC, will... work towards poverty eradication in the rural areas," Zuma said.

"We have, therefore, put radical economic transformation as the central focus of our plans for the next five years."

Zuma also warned that any ANC members and public officials found guilty of corruption "are expected to step down from any position of leadership" in the party.

The ANC is facing a tough election this year as voters are becoming increasingly disenchanted over social problems and unemployment.

Around a quarter of employable South Africans are without jobs, with the official jobless rate at 24.7%, although the actual number of unemployed is believed to be much higher.

Zuma also unveiled a land reform plan that ditches the willing-buyer willing-seller principle for a "just and equitable compensation" that will respect the country's constitution.

Calling on party members and supporters to "mobilise for an overwhelming victory" in the vote, Zuma expressed confidence that the plans in the manifesto "were realistic and achievable".

ANC supporters sang and danced to old liberation songs as the party launched its campaign.

Tens of thousands of people donning bright yellow ANC T-shirts filled the 43 500 capacity Mbombela Stadium to listen to Zuma.

20 years since apartheid

The rally also marked 102 years since the formation of the ANC, Africa's oldest liberation movement.

Activists chanted pro-Zuma slogans to show support for their leader who was last month booed by supporters dissatisfied by his leadership, before dozens of world leaders during Nelson Mandela's memorial service.

Last month the government cleared Zuma of any wrongdoing over a controversial  revamp at his private home, in a move criticised as a whitewash.

The general polls, expected in the first half of this year, coincide with the country's 20th anniversary since the end of apartheid in 1994.

South Africans born after the end of apartheid, so-called "born-frees", will be casting ballots for the first time.

They are bearing the brunt of slowing economic growth and dwindling job opportunities, and analysts have warned that the younger voters will be the hardest to woo.

Despite being the continent's richest country, South Africa is dogged by a widening income gap and joblessness is growing stubbornly high.

The manifesto hinges on the so-called National Development Plan, which is opposed by some of Zuma's allies in the labour movement who see it as neo-liberal.

Despite growing unpopularity, the ANC is still expected to win, but could see a drop in its share of the vote to under 60%.

According to a survey conducted in October and November 2013 by Johannesburg-based Ipsos, support for the ANC dropped by 10 percentage points from a year earlier to 53%.

However, Zuma this week vowed that the ANC would govern South Africa "forever and ever".

He said the party 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 youth leader who was expelled from the party in 2012 for ill discipline.

At the stadium, ANC supporters paraded a small makeshift coffin with "RIP Juju [Malema]" inscribed on it.

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  elections 2014  |  politics

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