President Cyril Ramaphosa appealed to South Africans to give the ANC another chance to govern ahead of the upcoming elections, saying the party, under his leadership, had reversed its regressive practices.
He also vowed to create more jobs, boost economic growth and address racial inequalities.
South Africans’ votes, expected in May, will be a test of whether Ramaphosa has been able to reverse a decline in support for the ANC that has seen its majority wane.
Ramaphosa was speaking at the ANC’s 107th anniversary celebrations and the launch of the party’s 2019 election manifesto.
The annual anniversary statement is used to outline the ANC’s priorities for the next year, while the manifesto is long-term and is presented before elections every five years. The documents are both used in outlining and formulating government policy.
Ramaphosa said both the party and the country had entered an era of renewal under him.
The 85000-seater stadium was packed to capacity in the culmination of a week of ANC festivities. Former president Jacob Zuma received applause as he made his way to the stage and took time to dance with Umkhonto We Sizwe military veterans.
Political parties from neighbouring countries including Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and the Palestinian national political party Fatah joined the celebrations.
The ANC, battling challenges of a united front, was relieved when there was no booing during the president’s speech, despite threats of it from Zuma empathisers.
Ramaphosa said the ANC leadership under him had made progress in its efforts to restore the integrity and credibility harmed by allegations of maleficence, corruption and state capture.
“Where necessary, we have taken measures to deal with cadres who have undermined the integrity of the movement and the ethical standards expected of public representatives and ANC leaders. This is among the most difficult of organisational tasks, but we remain resolute in our efforts to stamp out deviant and abhorrent practices.”
He said the ANC-led government had taken bold steps to confront corruption and capture through the establishment of commissions and changes in the leadership of state owned companies as part of restoring public confidence.
“We will appeal with all humility to the South African people to once again express their confidence in the ANC to lead society in pursuit of shared growth, job creation, radical economic and social transformation and national unity.”
Ramaphosa said while the ANC was proud of the progress that had been made, it had the duty to acknowledge that mistakes, which stalled some areas of transformation, had been made by the party.
“We must acknowledge that state capture and corruption have weakened several of our public institutions, undermined effective governance and contributed to the poor performance of our economy. We must also acknowledge that factionalism and patronage have diminished the ability of the ANC to lead the process of transformation and fulfil its mandate to the people,” he said.
Ramaphosa spoke of job creation and a transformed, inclusive economy.
“We are tasked with restructuring an economy that currently excludes the majority of South Africans.
“We need to mobilise domestic and international investment while we work with greater effort to unleash the economic potential of all our people - especially youth and women - by ensuring they have skills, assets, and opportunities,” he said.
This would require intensified efforts to restore investor confidence and the confidence of the business sector and consumers. Policy consistency and certainty and rooting out public sector corruption were pivotal to restoring confidence, he said, as was improving competitiveness.
“We will deliberately and consciously use government’s massive procurement spend to further our economic transformation objectives and support job creation and localised re-industrialisation,” he said.
Additional reporting ANA and Samkelo Mtshali.