JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Campaign rallies for South Africa’s upcoming elections have reached a climax Sunday with mass rallies by the ruling party and one of its most potent challengers.
The national elections for president and parliament will be held Wednesday.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa promised more jobs, economic growth and a drive against corruption at the rally for the African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela which has governed the country since the end of apartheid in 1994.
“Our young people want jobs and they want them now,” said Ramaphosa, who promised to reduce the country’s unemployment rate of 27 percent. “We know what needs to be done to increase jobs, to grow the economy.”
Ramaphosa was speaking to thousands of ANC supporters wearing the party’s yellow, black and green colors at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park rugby stadium.
He pledged to continue fighting corruption. Ramaphosa came to power last year after previous president Jacob Zuma, also of the ANC, resigned amid widespread scandals.
“We’ve taken decisive steps to fight corruption across the country,” said Ramaphosa. “The era of impunity is over. We are now in an era of accountability.”
However, the view that the ANC tolerates corruption is expected to hurt the party in the polls.
On the other side of Johannesburg, in in Soweto, the city’s largest black township, thousands gathered for a competing rally by the Economic Freedom Fighters, a populist, leftist party. Firebrand leader Julius Malema, who split from the ANC, is set to address the rally, despite the death of his grandmother Saturday. Malema has campaigned on vows to expropriate white-owned land without compensation and to nationalize the country’s mines.