That sits uneasily in a country where one in three workers is unemployed and many millions struggle to get by.
“This will be the jobs election,” said Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille, who promises to implement policies that create six million new jobs, if elected.
“We will make this election a battle of ideas; even as our opponents cling to the outdated politics of racial mobilisation.”
With the Democratic Alliance still struggling to shed its image as a party of white and mixed-race South Africans, the ANC’s strongest challenge may come in urban and provincial elections.
The Democratic Alliance already runs the Western Cape Province, including Cape Town, and has its sights set on wresting control of Gauteng, which encompasses Johannesburg and Pretoria.
The country’s most populous province and its economic heart, Gauteng has been at the centre of a wave of violent protests over the government’s failure to provide jobs and basic services.
Gauteng police say they were called in to 569 protests in the last three months alone and over a fifth of demonstrations turned violent.
Across the country as many as nine protesters are alleged to have been shot dead by police in the last month.
As Zuma’s announcement came Friday, residents of Hebron township near Pretoria burned tyres and threw stones at passing vehicles as part of a protest against lack of water and sanitation.
“If this government is not ready to listen to us, then violence maybe will make them listen,” said resident Reuben Mohlatsi.