• ANC pledges improved delivery of electricity, basic services
  • South Africa's municipal elections will take place on Aug. 3

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress unveiled its manifesto for local government elections, promising to support small businesses and improve delivery of housing and basic services such as water and sanitation, as it tries to boost economic growth and job creation.

“Local government is an important sphere through which services are delivered because it is closest to the people” President Jacob Zuma told ANC officials and party supporters at a rally in the east-coast town of Port Elizabeth on Saturday. “In the next five years, we will expand the electrification programme to the remaining areas and will roll out solar energy in certain areas.” Progress has also been made in increasing the number of households with access to water infrastructure, the ANC leader said.

The 104-year-old ANC hosted the rally in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, named after the country’s first black president, in an attempt to woo voters and retain its electoral majority in local government elections scheduled to take place on Aug. 3. The party’s support has declined amid allegations of corruption and a failure to deliver basic services to communities. The main opposition Democratic Alliance has gained traction among disenchanted voters in the region in the five years since the last local government election.

The ANC’s support fell to 62 percent of the vote in the 2011 municipal election from 65.9 percent in the prior vote in 2009, while the DA garnered 23.9 percent, up from 16.7 percent.

More than 20 years after apartheid was abolished, the government has faced more than 2,000 protests by communities demanding the delivery of basic services during the past five years. South Africa’s government is struggling to reduce a jobless rate of 24.5 percent and high inequality at the same time as battling to avoid the country’s credit rating being cut to junk. The economy is this year forecast to grow at the slowest pace since a 2009 recession, undermined by the worst drought in more than a century, power shortages and a slump in commodity prices.

“It is a concern to the ANC that many of our people, especially the youth, are sitting at home without jobs because the economy is not growing fast enough” to create those jobs, Zuma said. “Our municipalities, guided by the National Development Plan, will place job creation and sustainable livelihoods at the centre of their local economic programmes.”

The party’s promises come at a time when ANC veterans, civil rights groups and church leaders have called on Zuma to quit office. He’s faced increased pressure to step down since the Constitutional Court, the highest in the land, ruled on March 31 that he broke the law by not abiding by a directive from the nation’s graft ombudsman to repay taxpayers’ money spent on upgrading his Nkandla private home.

While Zuma apologized in a televised address and won the backing of at least six of the party’s nine provincial chapters, a failure by the ANC to take action against Zuma, who has led the party since December 2007, could cost it support in municipal elections according to Nontsikelelo Qolonqile, a 24-year-old studying financial management at the nearby Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, one of thousands of ANC supported who attended the rally.

“The ANC will definitely lose votes because of Zuma,” Qolonqila said.“Some people have lost confidence in his leadership after the Nkandla matter and his reputation as a president has been tainted. A leader should be someone who is respectable and accountable.”

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