South Africa\’s likely next president Jacob Zuma is confident of a landslide win in a general election, brushing aside concerns that corruption charges had dented his campaign.
Polls predict his African National Congress (ANC) would take 67 per cent of the vote in Wednesday\’s polls, making Zuma a shoo-in for president when parliament meets in early May to elect a new head of state.
The 67-year-old former anti-apartheid activist said he was confident of a “huge and decisive mandate” and moved to dispel doubts about his integrity after graft charges against him were dropped only two weeks ago.
\’No cloud\’ around Zuma
“There\’s absolutely no cloud. I\’ve never seen a cloud around me,” Zuma told reporters at a final pre-election media briefing.
Prosecutors argued that political meddling had compromised the legal case against Zuma, but insisted they remained confident of the case against him. Zuma has repeatedly insisted that the case no longer matters.
Election authorities expect a record turnout, with more than 23 million people registered to vote.
“All of our 19,726 stations will be open at 7:00 am on Wednesday,” Independent Electoral Commission spokeswoman Kate Bapela told AFP.
“At this stage we do not foresee any disruptions or hiccups,” she said.
The build-up to the country\’s fourth democratic elections has been the most energetic since the 1994 polls which swept Nelson Mandela to power and ended white minority rule.
Middle class mistrust
Speculation is rife about a Zuma presidency. While revered by the poor, he is distrusted by the middle class because of his tainted image and fears over strong ties to the ANC\’s leftist partners.
The ANC leader, who was jailed for a decade alongside Mandela, has pushed campaign themes of anti-corruption and good governance, and on Tuesday promised a smooth transition to a new government.
“We reiterate that we will use our majority responsibly and will not ride roughshod over the rights of the people, or bulldoze other parties into submission,” he said.
President Kgalema Motlanthe, viewed as the ANC\’s bench-warmer for Zuma after the ouster of Thabo Mbeki last September, insisted that South Africa\’s democracy remained strong, despite a series of scandals.
Economic woes \’overstated\’
“Our democracy is vibrant and those doomsayers who have been predicting our democracy is floundering will be made to eat humble pie,” he said.
However, the ANC\’s two-thirds majority in parliament – allowing it to introduce constitutional changes – is being challenged by a new breakaway group, the Congress of the People (COPE), formed by a splinter group of Mbeki supporters.
COPE is among 40 parties to contest the elections, 26 at national level and 14 at provincial level.
An Ipsos Markinor poll on Tuesday predicted the ANC to win 67 per cent of the vote, the opposition Democratic Alliance 13 per cent and COPE 11 per cent.
While some analysts have said the ANC\’s super majority could be lost, Zuma insisted that COPE, which has tried to eat into the ANC support base, will not make significant electoral inroads.
Zuma received a major endorsement when 90-year-old Mandela made a rare public appearance at a mass rally in Johannesburg at the weekend.