South Africa’s main opposition party on Sunday called to “punish” the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in a final push for support ahead of fiercely competitive municipal polls.
Democratic Alliance (DA) chief Mmusi Maimane is hoping to lead his party to a breakthrough result on August 3, as the country struggles with record unemployment and flat-lining economic growth.
“In a democracy, you don’t need to be loyal to one party forever; if that party betrays you, you get the chance to punish them,” Maimane said at the party’s final election rally.
“Just because you voted for the ANC in the past doesn’t mean you must vote ANC forever.”
Some 20,000 supporters clad in the DA’s sky-blue T-shirts filled the benches of Dobsonville Stadium in Maimane’s hometown of Soweto, the iconic Johannesburg township that set the scene for much of the struggle against white-minority apartheid rule.
The DA has slammed the ANC’s record, citing the country’s poor economic performance and a series of corruption scandals plaguing President Jacob Zuma. “People of this country have been betrayed by this government,” Maimane told supporters.
“You vote for jobs and services, but get unemployment and corruption.”
The DA rules in the Western Cape province, currently holding the strategic metropolis of Cape Town.
The latest Ipsos opinion polls suggest that the ANC, which has ruled since the end of apartheid in 1994, could be under threat in three more major cities — Pretoria, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth — at the election.
“The ANC’s had their chance — they had twenty years,” supporter Geoff Finn told AFP.
“People don’t have jobs, services aren’t being delivered, and it’s opportunity for change.”
Lucky Dinake, a 22-year-old candidate for the opposition, said the DA was a “forward-looking party”.
“We get so caught up in our past in this country, and I found a political home that looked to the future,” he told AFP.
The radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party is also seeking to make a major impact in its first municipal elections. All three main parties hold their final rallies this weekend.
Mr Zuma, 74, will have completed two terms in 2019 and is not eligible to run for president again, but the ANC could replace him ahead of the next general election if the party scores poorly in the local polls.
The change the DA is touting is the expectation that the ANC might lose three closely contested metros: the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality on the Indian Ocean coast; Johannesburg, the country’s economic heart; and Tshwane (Pretoria), South Africa’s capital city.
Late on Sunday, President Zuma urged supporters to vote for the ruling African National Congress.
Zuma’s ANC, which controls the majority of the country’s 278 municipalities, has been weakened by graft scandals and growing public discontent since it led the fight against white-minority rule.
At a massive final rally, the party made a last push for votes, stressing its anti-apartheid history and the legacy of former president and Nobel peace price winner Nelson Mandela.
“Millions of our people must vote ANC and enable their movement to continue improving the lives of our people,” Mr Zuma told a packed Ellis Park Stadium in the Johannesburg city centre.”
An estimated 55,000 supporters decked in the ANC’s green, yellow and black filled the stands for the extravagant rally, crowning a campaign the party said had cost it an estimated one billion rand ($72 million).
“We have walked the streets of this country, we have visited every town, every city. We have been to thousands of homes,” said Zuma.