South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) will kick-start the economy and deal with corruption, it has vowed, three days before elections at which its overwhelming majority faces its sternest test since the party rose to power.
Less than 30km (18.6 miles) away, the country’s second-biggest opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), challenged the ANC’s governance record and promised a tougher stance on corruption and economic policies to target racial inequality.
Though the ANC has won each parliamentary election since the transition from apartheid in 1994, recent opinion polls predict that it will bleed support to opposition coalitions that have gained ground as the ANC has been dogged by political scandal and a flagging economy.
President Cyril Ramaphosa (pictured), who took over from scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as ANC leader in December 2017, told about 70,000 supporters packed into Johannesburg’s Ellis Park Stadium that the party would punish members guilty of stealing public money.
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A judicial corruption inquiry that began in 2018 has heard chilling evidence of how top officials took bribes from local and multinational companies in exchange for lucrative contracts from State firms.
“We are determined that those found guilty of corruption or involvement in State capture will not be allowed to occupy positions of responsibility, either in the ANC, in Parliament or in Government,” Ramaphosa said at the rally.
“The era of impunity is over. We are now entering the era of accountability.”
The torrent of allegations has hit ANC support, especially in urban areas.
The EFF, formed by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema in 2013, has built its agenda on highlighting State graft and championing radical economic reforms the ANC has avoided, such as mine nationalisation and land expropriation without compensation.