SOUTH AFRICA

ANC defectors launch new party's election manifesto

Ahead of South African general elections, Congress of the People, the breakaway faction of the ruling ANC party, launched its election manifesto Saturday, highlighting measures to reduce poverty and crime.

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AFP - Defectors from South Africa’s ANC vowed in their new party’s election manifesto on Saturday to tackle poverty and shield the economy from the global financial crisis.

The new party, Congress of the People (COPE), is bidding to loosen the grip of the ruling ANC, which has governed South Africa with a large majority since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Formed by loyalists to former President Thabo Mbeki, who was forced out by the ANC last year, COPE is highly unlikely to win an election in April but could cut the ANC’s parliamentary majority below the two-thirds it needs to be able to sweep through legislation unchallenged.

COPE is seen as more market-friendly than the ANC but its manifesto made promises similar to the ruling party’s, announcing it would launch an anti-poverty strategy after the election.

The programme would “ensure that all of our people participate in economic activities to generate the necessary income to improve their standard of living and quality of life”, COPE Deputy President Mbhazima Shilowa, a former provincial premier, said at the launch.

COPE said it would revise legislation to help companies in distress, including via a stabilisation fund to shield the economy and protect jobs. If elected, the party would provide “focused support” for industries such as manufacturing and an industrial development zone in Africa’s biggest economy.




“ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES”

ANC President Jacob Zuma on Saturday highlighted rural development and agricultural reform as key policy goals.

“We have to roll up our sleeves and do the work and not just be able to talk about how the work will be done,” Zuma said at a conference to finalise the ANC’s election candidates.

Analysts say a tough election and fears of a drift to leftist policies by the ANC will keep foreign investors wary.

Despite a court’s decision to overturn a ruling that threw out corruption charges against him, Zuma is still expected to become president this year because of the ANC’s dominance of South African politics.

But the revived corruption case will hinder his ability to govern and increase the chance of him shifting closer to the leftist allies who form his power base, analysts say.

There appears to be no let up for South Africa’s struggling rand currency, with political uncertainty and global and domestic economic gloom leading to the possibility of a fall back towards levels last seen in 2001, analysts say.

Economic growth has skidded to its lowest level in a decade, touching just 0.2 percent in last year’s third quarter.

While investors will be trying to make sense of South Africa’s murky politics, a major concern will be the fate of longstanding Finance Minister Trevor Manuel—a market favourite—and central bank Governor Tito Mboweni.

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