South Africa’s Zuma focuses on jobs ahead of local vote


South African President Jacob Zuma promised to create jobs, improve social services and fight corruption in government as he appealed for support in municipal elections.

At the launch of the ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) election manifesto, Zuma also called for the need to fight racial inequalities, still present in the country 17 years after apartheid ended.
“While we’ve achieved a lot, there is clearly much more that needs to be done,” he told thousands of supporters gathered in the Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg, Reuters reports.

He appealed to the country’s poor to vote for the ANC despite the slow pace of the government’s delivery of improved infrastructure and services and promised the government would step up its efforts to improve their lives.

The ANC has faced violent protest for failing to deliver running water, electricity, basic education and healthcare to the masses of poor in the years the party has been in power since the end of apartheid.

Zuma said the party would ensure officials put in place in local government were “accountable…efficient and competent” and said he would fight corruption in government ranks.

Job creation took centre stage in his speech as he called on every government department to help create jobs in Africa’s biggest economy in which unemployment has lingered at about 25 percent for years.

With municipal elections in the second quarter, the budget plan presented last week also underlined the heavy pressure faced by the ANC to spend more on job creation and social welfare.

Besides 39 billion rand already earmarked for job creation and factory investment, the government said it would spend an extra 5 billion rand on a youth employment subsidy to get school-leavers and graduates into work.

The labour reforms, job fund and the Zuma administration’s New Growth Plan, which calls on government initiatives to create 5 million jobs by 2020, have been aimed at pleasing powerful labour federation COSATU, in a governing alliance with the ANC.

Economists have raised concerns about the ANC’s focus on pleasing its labour allies rather than on creating a more globally competitive labour force.

Given its stranglehold in politics, the ANC will easily win the bulk of the local elections, but any gains by the opposition Democratic Alliance could deal a blow to Zuma and his backers in the highly splintered ruling group.