Jacob Zuma launches manifesto and pledges to fight corruption

Despite discontent with leadership, most back the president as ANC faces tough election

South African president and ANC president Jacob Zuma: he has been accused of high-level corruption which led to calls by the public and  within his party for him to step down. Photograph:  Michael Sheehan/AFP/Getty Images

South African president and ANC president Jacob Zuma: he has been accused of high-level corruption which led to calls by the public and within his party for him to step down. Photograph: Michael Sheehan/AFP/Getty Images

 

The African National Congress’s embattled president Jacob Zuma launched the ruling party’s local-election manifesto at the weekend, promising to hold corrupt officials to account and bind councillors to performance agreements.

Mr Zuma has been accused of high-level corruption in recent months and in March the highest court in the land unanimously ruled that he failed to uphold the constitution. This led to calls by the public and from within the ANC for him to step down or be recalled from office.

However, despite growing discontent with his leadership, the ruling party’s national executive committee, and all but one of its nine provincial structures, gave their support for Mr Zuma to continue leading the party.

This broad support from high-level party structures means Mr Zuma is set to continue at the helm as the ANC faces into its potentially most difficult election since it came to power 22 years ago: the local elections on August 3rd.

Many observers believe the former liberation movement is in danger of haemorrhaging voter support at the poll, especially in urban areas in Gauteng Province and in Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape’s provincial capital.

Corruption among ANC officials at local government level, the poor service delivery record of many ANC-run municipalities, and the many scandals swirling around Mr Zuma’s presidency are believed to be eroding the party’s popularity.

Addressing party supporters gathered in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, Mr Zuma outlined the ANC’s election manifesto while also trying to assure voters that the ruling party adhered to the constitution, even if he was adjudicated to have broken his oath of office.

The ANC had hoped 100,000 people would turn up for the manifesto’s launch, but it was reported that only 50,000 people had come out for the occasion, and television images showed that large swathes of the stadium where it was held were empty during the event.

In response to concerns about the way councillors are picked, Mr Zuma said the ANC had started to get communities involved in choosing their local government candidates, instead of the party picking them. And, once in office, councillors would be held accountable and have to maintain high standards.

“We will ensure that all ANC councillors abide by the ANC’s code of conduct,” he said.

To fight corruption, officials and their family members are now also barred from conducting business with municipalities, he added.

While there are visible signs of growing discontent with Mr Zuma’s leadership from within the ANC, albeit predominately from party veterans and members no longer at the core of the current leadership, civil society also began to call for the president to resign in recent weeks.

On Saturday more than 70 organisations were represented at a meeting convened in Soweto, near Johannesburg, by the People’s Consultative Assembly for Democracy, to further the movement’s efforts to get Mr Zuma removed from office.

Those gathered discussed how to escalate their campaign to remove Mr Zuma as South Africa’s president, and agreed to stage a mass action on April 27th at the ANC’s headquarters in Johannesburg to call for his removal.

South Africa’s Sunday Times reported that high-level sources within the ANC told it that senior party officials were putting together an exit strategy for Mr Zuma to leave office once the local elections were over.