Soweto, South Africa – At a packed Orlando Stadium, the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) wrapped up a weekend of mass rallies by the three main political parties ahead of crucial general elections on Wednesday.
The EFF’s firebrand leader, Julius Malema, reeled off a list of the ruling African National Congress’s (ANC) perceived failures on Sunday – on everything from education to land redistribution – to a rapt audience, encouraging his party’s followers to “vote for the hope of the hopeless masses” at the polls.
Malema also repeated his previous controversial campaign promises to nationalise South Africa‘s mines and banks.
Other EFF leaders who joined Malema on stage repeated the party’s familiar refrain of “Our land, our jobs”, a slogan that highlights two of the most prominent challenges faced by the country voted the most unequal in the world by the World Bank in 2018.
South Africa’s unemployment rate currently sits at about 27 percent, while private land ownership is skewed to 72 percent in the hands of whites, who comprise less than 10 percent of the population.
Malema also condemned xenophobia after a spate of attacks, predominantly on African and Asian foreign nationals, in recent months against a backdrop of rising anti-immigrant rhetoric by leaders within both the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the ANC.
Following weeks of protests and shutdowns in under-served townships and informal settlements across South Africa, Mandisa Mashego, the EFF’s provincial chairperson in Gauteng, which incorporates Johannesburg, alleged there is “massive disillusionment with the ANC”.
|EFF leaders say people are disillusioned with the late Nelson Mandela’s ruling ANC [Christopher Clark/Al Jazeera]|
Earlier in the day, less than 20km away from Soweto at Ellis Park stadium, President Cyril Ramaphosa promised ANC supporters that his cabinet would root out the rampant corruption that has plagued the feted liberation party of former President Nelson Mandela in recent years, particularly under the ruinous nine-year tenure of Jacob Zuma.
The controversy-laden former president was removed in February 2018.
“The era of impunity is over. We are now entering the era of accountability. We are now entering the era of consequence,” Ramaphosa told a crowd in excess of 60,000.
Three recent polls suggest the ANC will retain more than 50 percent of the overall vote at the polls, with the EFF and liberal DA predicted to garner 11-14 percent and 20-24 percent, respectively.
‘Free from divisions’
On Saturday, at Dobsonville Stadium also in Soweto, which has traditionally been an ANC stronghold, DA leader Mmusi Maimane promised to put an end to corruption and grow South Africa’s stuttering economy.
The DA has also positioned itself in stark opposition to the EFF and the ANC on the latter’s divisive plans to expropriate private land from white farmers without compensation.
In local elections in 2016, the ANC lost three key metros to DA-led coalitions, and Maimane reiterated to a crowd of about 5,000 that his party would remain “at the heart of coalition governments in this country as we build a strong centre for South Africa, free from the divisions of the past”.
Forty-eight parties will appear on South Africa’s national ballot this year, 19 more than registered in 2014.
|EFF leaders repeated the party’s familiar refrain of ‘Our land, our jobs’ [Christopher Clark/Al Jazeera]|