S.African president says ANC poll victory 'certain'

Philippe ALFROY
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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has a broad appeal outside the African National Congress even if he has enemies inside it

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has a broad appeal outside the African National Congress even if he has enemies inside it (AFP Photo/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA)

Johannesburg (AFP) - South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said victory was "certain" for his ruling ANC party in Wednesday's general elections despite corruption, high unemployment and widening inequalities marring its 25 years in power.

"We've met people without jobs, decent houses, proper education," he told a crowd of some 50,000 gathered at Johannesburg's Ellis Park stadium on Sunday, closing the African National Congress's election campaign.

"Today we say to the people of South Africa we have heard you," he said. "Yes we have made mistakes but it is only those who are doing nothing who don't make mistakes."

Despite the emergence of a middle class in South Africa, the continent's economic powerhouse, 20 percent of black households still live in dire poverty, compared with only 2.9 percent of white households, according to the Institute of Race Relations.

Between 2011 and 2015, three million South Africans have fallen into poverty, according to the World Bank.

The unemployment rate currently stands at 27 percent and the ANC has been dogged by corruption scandals during the tenure of Jacob Zuma, Ramaphosa's predecessor.

"The era of immunity is over. We are now entering a period of accountability. We will fight with every needs at our disposal to ensure those who occupied positions of authority serve only the public interest, not their own pockets and not themselves," Ramaphosa said.

"We are determined that those found guilty of corruption or involvement in state capture will not be allowed to occupy positions of responsibility either in the ANC, in parliament or in government."

But despite all the party's shortcomings, Ramaphosa said he was certain the ANC -- in power since the end of apartheid in 1994 -- would go on to win the elections.

"Comrades, our victory is certain. I can smell it, I can feel it, I can touch it," he said.

- Rivals hope to punish ANC -

The ANC faces the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in the vote.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane had appealed for South Africans to "give change a chance" at the party's last rally on Saturday, while the EFF on Sunday said it was the verge of an election breakthrough.

The EFF emerged as South Africa's third biggest party in the 2014 elections, just nine months after it was formed by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema.

The party, which won six percent of the vote in 2014, could double its vote share in this election, according to several recent polls.

"They thought we were a Mickey Mouse organisation, now they realise we are force to be reckoned with," Malema told tens of thousands of supporters dressed in red who packed a sports stadium in the heart of Soweto township.

"You cannot talk about the future of South Africa without EFF. We are the future of South Africa," he said.

The EFF has becoming increasingly professional, and its final rally before Wednesday's vote was abuzz with confidence and expectation.

"(Nelson) Mandela has handed the baton to the younger generation and that younger generation is the EFF," said Malema.

The EFF's flagship policy is to seize land from largely white owners -- individuals and companies -- to give to poor blacks.