Jacob Zuma greets his supporters as he arrives for the launch of the ANC election manifesto at Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit January 11.

Mbombela, Mpumalanga - The ANC will embark on a big public spending spree to quell the fires of discontent in the townships, promising to create six million jobs, build a million houses, give away some land and punish the corrupt.

The ruling party displayed a massive show of support, filling Mbombela Stadium in Mpumalanga yesterday against the backdrop of an Ipsos poll suggesting its voter support base will shrink drastically.

According to the survey, the ANC appears to have lost as much as 19 percent of its support since 2008, the last time such a study was done.

This, according to Ipsos, might see the party amass only 53 percent of the national vote in the elections this year, with new and smaller parties making inroads.

The loss is attributed to leadership issues, the Marikana massacre, scandals such as President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla security upgrades, corruption, poor service delivery and the entry of new parties.

However, at the launch of its manifesto and annual policy articulation rally yesterday, the ruling party showed it wants to face the fifth democratic elections with a cleaner image and a zero-tolerance approach to corruption.

The party’s manifesto says it will “require any ANC member or ANC public representative found guilty by a court of law to step down from any leadership position in the ANC, government and society”.

“Where this has not happened, the ANC will take firm action in line with the provisions of the ANC constitution,” the manifesto states.

This comes as the party’s national executive committee called for strong action against civil servants and others found to have been involved in corruption related to security upgrades at Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.

The party said “those who believe they are scapegoats because they will want to say they acted on the directive of certain political principals have a responsibility to disclose who those political principals are”.

This could be interpreted as a pre-emptive strike to quell the opposition’s campaign narrative and public anger over Nkandla and the expected release of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on the Nkandla spending.

Worried that the scourge of tender corruption among its ranks may cost it support and credibility, the ANC has – again – targeted and vowed to fix the porous procurement system.

The ruling party reiterated its plans to introduce a centralised tender system to close the tap on its members abusing their political power to cash in on state contracts.

“A central tender board, with representation by stakeholders, will be established to adjudicate tenders in all spheres of government. This body will work with the chief procurement officer whose main function will be to check on pricing and adherence to procedures as well as fairness,” Zuma said to applause.

He said this was a demonstration that the ANC remained “very clear that corruption must be fought wherever it occurs and in all its manifestations”.

“We shall continue to work with all sectors of society and all our anti-corruption agencies to address this scourge.”

According to former auditor general Terence Nombembe, irregular and wasteful expenditure by national and provincial departments have cost taxpayers R28.4 billion in the last financial year

Meanwhile, the manifesto’s thrust was addressing the waning patience in the party’s constituencies – the townships – some of which have been exploding with angry protesters demanding improved service delivery.

In its manifesto, the ruling party played the political Father Christmas with loads of gifts – in a form of promises.

It says it will use its old vehicle – the Extended Public Works Programme – to create six million jobs by 2019, “many of which will be long duration”. With a disproportionally higher number of unemployed youth, the ruling party wants the young people to be the main beneficiaries of the jobs.

Sunday Tribune