South Africa’s ruling African National Congress kicked off its election campaign as a survey showed it’s hemorrhaging support in the wake of a series of corruption scandals and the creation of new opposition parties.
The ANC’s support dropped by 10 percentage points from a year earlier to 53 percent, according to a survey of 3,564 adults interviewed by Johannesburg-based Ipsos in October and November. Eighteen percent of respondents backed the main opposition Democratic Alliance, 4 percent the newly formed Economic Freedom Fighters led by ex-ANC youth wing leader Julius Malema, and 7 percent said they wouldn’t vote. The margin of error was 1.7 percent.
Disenchantment with the ANC over a 25 percent unemployment rate was compounded after the August 2012 killing of 34 protesters by police at Lonmin Plc (LMI)’s Marikana platinum mine in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg. Since then, the party has been tainted by revelations that the state spent more than 200 million rand ($18.5 million) upgrading President Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.
“Political uncertainty, leadership issues, the aftermath of the Marikana shootings, the issues about Nkandla, service delivery protests, the forming of new political parties and a host of other reasons” may be eroding support for the ANC, Ipsos said in an e-mailed statement.
The 102-year-old ANC, which led the fight against white minority rule, has won more than 60 percent support in every vote since 1994. In the last general election five years ago it got 66 percent
The party began its fight-back campaign last night, when Zuma unveiled its manifesto to woo voters before an election that must be held by July.
“We look at ways to build an inclusive economy that creates jobs, to transform our rural areas and sustainable human settlements, to ensure quality health care for all and to fight corruption,” Zuma told ANC members. The president is scheduled to give a speech at a rally at 11 a.m. in the northern town of Nelspruit.
“The economy is going to be featuring more strongly” in this year’s manifesto, Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president of the ANC, said in an interview at the event last night. “We are going back to the country with a good story of the future, not so much dwelling in the past.”
The depth of public anger against the ANC’s leadership surfaced last month, when Zuma was jeered at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg.
Twenty years after the end of apartheid, average earnings for black households are a sixth of their white counterparts. About a fifth of the population of 53 million lack formal housing and 2.3 million households don’t have proper toilets.
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