South Africa‘s President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to create more jobs, boost economic growth and address racial inequalities as he launched the ruling party’s parliamentary election campaign.
“At the centre of our manifesto is a plan to create many more jobs and ensure that all workers can earn a decent living,” Ramaphosa told tens of thousands of African National Congress (ANC) supporters packed into Durban city’s Moses Mabhida stadium on Saturday.
“The most pressing task for our country is to set the economy on a higher path of shared growth and to transform the structure of our economy to provide opportunities for millions of South Africans,” he added.
The vote, in which South Africans will elect provincial representatives – as well as a new president, is expected in May.
It will be a test of whether Ramaphosa has been able to reverse a decline in support for the ANC, which has governed since the end of apartheid in 1994 but has seen its majority wane.
Ramaphosa became head of state in February last year after his allies on the ANC’s executive forced scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma to resign, fearing that the corruption affairs and economic stagnation that marked his nine years in power could harm the party’s chances at this year’s election.
Ramaphosa and other top ANC officials have been touring Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) this week, projecting an image of unity despite deep rifts within the party, where a faction loyal to Zuma retains significant influence, despite the allegations.
KZN is important for political parties as the province has the second-highest number of voters.
Ramaphosa is trying to solidify his position in a party where support appears to be split between him and his predecessor, Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller said.
“Some of the biggest regions of the ANC across the country are in KZN,” political analyst Lukhona Mnguni told Al Jazeera.
“It’s very important to understand that if your KZN is weak, divided, it has the possibility to divide the entire nation or to cause massive rifts within the ANC and of course this is the base for former President Jacob Zuma.”
KZN is a former stronghold of the opposition Inkatha Freedom Party. There are concerns that a lack of unity within the ANC, allegations of corruption and poor delivery of services could see the party lose some of its support to its rival.
Some analysts say a resounding victory for the ANC this year could embolden Ramaphosa in his drive to boost investment and tackle corruption.
Others believe he will continue to be constrained by his opponents in Africa‘s oldest national liberation movement.