South African ruling African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma gestures as he gives his speech during the ANC closing rally campaign for the municipal elections at Ellis Par Stadium on July 31, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Zuma, 74, will have completed two terms in 2019 and is not eligible to run for president again, but the ANC could replace him ahead of the next general election if the party scores poorly in the local polls. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP
South Africa’s ruling ANC party will look to “self-correct” at a six-day meeting starting Friday, a senior official said after a series of bruising scandals and fierce criticism of President Jacob Zuma.
Zuma has been engulfed by graft allegations and humiliating court rulings while grappling with record unemployment and an economy that has dipped into recession.
The African National Congress, which led the fight against apartheid, has ruled South Africa since Nelson Mandela won the first multi-racial elections in 1994.
But the party faces tricky elections in 2019, and could lose its grip on power as many South Africans grow increasingly frustrated at lack of progress since the end of white-minority rule.
“Economic growth, radical social transformation, land reform, education, fighting crime… have been identified as our priorities for the meeting,” ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told reporters Thursday.
“But most importantly it will be an opportunity to self-correct.”
Zuma, who is due to step down as ANC head in December and as president ahead of the 2019 election, has faced outspoken criticism from senior party figures, including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Zuma is seen as favouring his ex-wife, former African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to succeed him — rather than Ramaphosa.
The battle for the party leadership is likely to dominate policy discussions at the venue in south Johannesburg.
The meeting “takes place against the backdrop of unprecedented factionalism, infighting and political fracturing in the century-old liberation movement,” said analyst Marius Oosthuizen, writing in the Business Day newspaper.
Zuma is due to give the opening address on Friday morning.
He has been accused of being in the sway of the wealthy Gupta business family, allegedly granting them influence over government appointments, contracts and state-owned businesses.
He is also fighting a court order that could reinstate almost 800 corruption charges against him over a multi-billion dollar arms deal in the 1990s.
The Constitutional Court last year found the president guilty of violating the constitution after he refused to repay taxpayers’ money used to refurbish his private rural house.
Zuma’s sacking of respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan in March fuelled public anger over his time in office.
The dismissal of Gordhan saw the Fitch ratings agency as well as Standard and Poor’s cut South Africa’s sovereign credit rating to junk status due to fears of political instability and growing corruption.
The ANC won just 55 percent in last year’s local elections, its worst-ever result.