, JOHANNESBURG Apr 21 – South Africa’s ruling party leader Jacob Zuma on Monday called for a big turnout for this week’s general elections, which are expected to launch him to the presidency.
"Vote in numbers to give the party the authority and power to change things," Zuma told a meeting with the transport industry.
"If people don’t vote for ANC, they will deny the party a majority, which will mean it can’t take correct decisions."
With elections just two days away, the leader of the African National Congress (ANC) was enjoying a wave of publicity and public enthusiasm following the surprise appearance of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela at a rally Sunday.
Even though the ANC is expected to easily win the general elections, 90-year-old Mandela gave a moral boost to the party which has been ripped apart by in-fighting and clouded by allegations of corruption against Zuma.
"My prediction is that the ANC going to get over 60 percent of the votes," said political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi.
However, Matshiqi cautioned that the results might be full of surprises, as an ANC breakaway called the Congress of the People (COPE) is for the first time challenging for power along with the current opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).
"Firstly, the ANC might just get the two thirds majority and surprise everyone, and COPE might do better than the DA. On the other hand, the DA might improve on its 2004 results," said Matshiqi.
The ANC has held a two-thirds majority since the 2004 polls, allowing the party to bring in constitutional changes at will.
Sunday’s rally, dubbed Siyanqoba, or "victory" in Zulu, drew over 120,000 supporters and was beamed to eight venues around the country.
Until just two weeks ago, Zuma had been the subject of a corruption investigation stemming from a 1999 arms deal. Prosecutors dropped the charges saying that political meddling had compromised the legal process, but insisting they remained confident of the case against him.
The opposition condemned the decision, but the move reinvigorated his followers who have long believed that his prosecution was plotted by political enemies to prevent him from becoming president.
The ANC has promised to rid South Africa of corruption and improve on poor delivery of government services, a point of great public frustration that has been seized upon by the new opposition.
But analysts say the only question in the elections is whether the ANC will hold on to its two-thirds majority.
"The key question is whether the ANC will hold on to its existing two-thirds majority in the upcoming election," said Razia Khan, head of Africa research at Standard Chartered Bank in London.
Although COPE is seen as the first significant opposition to take on the ANC, experts and polls suggest the party is likely to win no more than 10 percent of the vote.
After 15 years of democracy, the ANC is still the party of choice for the country’s mainly black and poor majority who feel populist presidential candidate Zuma will tackle the still crushing rates of poverty and unemployment.
The ANC spent heavily to fend off the nascent challenge from COPE, forking out about 200 million rands (22 million dollars, 17 million euros) for its campaign, believed to be one of the most expensive ever mounted here.
Their main financial backers remain secret. Government, large financial institutions and private companies make private donations to most big political parties. Parties are also allowed to source international funding.