South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, facing pressure to resign from within his African National Congress, sought to win back support with the launch on Saturday of the party’s manifesto in Port Elizabeth, where it risks losing an important local poll.
Zuma has faced calls to resign from within the ANC since a court ruled this month that he breached the constitution by ignoring an order to repay some of the $16 million in state funds spent renovating his private home.
According to Reuters, Zuma told crowds that the ANC would do more to fight corruption, create jobs and expand access to basic services like water and electricity for millions of poor South Africans.
“A vote for the ANC is a vote for a united, non-racial, democratic, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa,” Zuma told around 40,000 supporters in Nelson Mandela Stadium, less than half the number promised.
“Compatriots, local government is in your hands. Vote ANC and together we shall build better communities,” Zuma concluded, before leading party leaders in traditional dance on stage and singing a favourite freedom anthem.
Before Zuma had even finished his speech, the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) spammed South Africans with computer-generated text messages.
“You are hearing more empty promises from a corrupt president. We need real change,” the message said.
Many South Africans are angry at corruption in the ANC and feel the liberation movement has not done enough to help lift people out of poverty since the late Nelson Mandela swept to power on a wave of optimism in 1994.
“If Madiba was still alive I would have been the first one in that stadium,” Patricia Domons, 58, told Reuters at her simple home in Port Elizabeth, using Mandela’s clan name.
“Now you find we have a president that steals, people are poor and they don’t have jobs. Our country is going down and a hell of a lot needs to change.”