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Ruling ANC kickstarts S.Africa election season

President Cyril Ramaphosa

Durban, South Africa | AFP | South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to unveil the ruling ANC party’s election manifesto on Saturday in front of tens of thousands of supporters, 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 vote 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 percent of the vote in May’s national and provincial elections.

At the legislative level, that would put it on a par with its performance in 2014, when it picked up 62 percent. In South Africa’s parliament, the party which wields 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.

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

“In this manifesto, we have a clear plan for growth and faster progress… It is a plan to unite the country, grow the economy, create jobs and reduce inequality.”

On Saturday, the party expects 85,000 activists to turn out at a soccer stadium in the coastal city of Durban for the launch of the manifesto.

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.

– Party revival? –

“We are confident that this manifesto will lead to the renewal of the mandate of the ANC to govern,” ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule told reporters.

“The unity is there. It is visible.”

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.

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