12 Jan 2009

ANC unveils election manifesto

6:12 pm on 12 January 2009

South Africa's governing African National Congress has unveiled its election manifesto at a packed stadium rally.

The party promised massive public spending to create jobs and more government intervention in the economy.

With elections in a few months, tens of thousands of supporters attended the rally in Eastern Cape province.

The ANC faces a challenge from the newly formed breakaway Congress of the People party.

ANC leader Jacob Zuma said the party had identified five priorities: jobs creation, education, health, rural development (including land reform), and the fight against crime.

"The most important task of the beginning of the year is to ensure that the ANC returns a decisive election victory," the 66-year-old leader told cheering crowds at the stadium in East London.

The BBC reports the party is placing greater emphasis on helping the poor and its manifesto represents a policy shift to the left.

The party's expected parliamentary victory this year would be likely to ensure the presidency for Mr Zuma.

But having dominated politics since the fall of apartheid in 1994, the ANC now has to fight for votes for the first time, the BBC says.

It is facing a challenge from the new Cope party, made up of senior ANC members who left the party after Thabo Mbeki stepped down as president in September, following a power struggle with Mr Zuma.

Analysts say that although Cope would be hard pressed to defeat the ANC, the new party could gain enough black votes to deny it an absolute parliamentary majority at the election, which must be held by April.

Meanwhile, a South African court will hand down a judgment on Monday on an appeal by prosecutors against a decision to throw out bribery, fraud and other charges against Mr Zuma.