Zuma Unconcerned by Jeering as ANC Set for Vote Win

South African President Jacob Zuma said he’s unconcerned about being booed in front of global leaders at a memorial event for Nelson Mandela last month as the ruling African National Congress prepares for an election win.

“Booing is part of expressing a particular view so I was never worried about it,” Zuma said at a televised event today from the northern town of Nelspruit, where ANC leaders were discussing the party’s election manifesto.

Zuma, 71, was jeered by a crowd of tens of thousands at an official memorial service for Mandela in Johannesburg on Dec. 10 attended by leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama. Zuma has been tainted by corruption allegations and has come in for criticism after the government revealed that more than 200 million rand ($18.7 million) of public funds was spent on renovating his personal residence.

“Booing is part of political activity,” Zuma said. “There are many ways of expressing discontent. People kept saying maybe Zuma is embarrassed by the booing in front of all those heads of state, but those heads of state have also been booed in their own countries at some point.”

The ANC pledged in its manifesto released at the weekend to create six million jobs to lower the nation’s 25 percent unemployment rate, build 11 million houses over the next five years and intensify its focus on boosting economic growth.

‘Pipe Dream’

Six million jobs “is not a pipe dream,” Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told the Johannesburg-based radio station Power FM today. “The six million is a fairly calculated number and it’s a number that is backed by budget allocations over the next three years.”

The ANC has won every election since 1994 with more than 60 percent support. This year’s vote is set to take place by July.

“Anyone who doesn’t think the ANC is going to win elections must be living in another country,” Zuma said. “There is no doubt of winning elections, it’s just a question of the percentage.”

An opinion poll done in October and November and published by Ipsos on Jan. 11 showed the ANC’s support has dropped by 10 percentage points to 53 percent from a year ago.

The nation’s largest labor group, the 338,000-member National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, said last month it won’t back the ANC in the elections and called on Zuma to resign amid allegations of abuse of public funds spent on his home in Nkandla, in rural KwaZulu-Natal province.

“All we are going to say to voters about Numsa is that these are our colleagues and they have a different view, however we are engaging them,” Zuma said. “We are going to campaign them to support the ANC in elections.”

Zuma will remain the ANC’s leader and isn’t a liability in the elections, the Johannesburg-based Star newspaper reported today, citing the ANC’s policy chief, Jeff Radebe.

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