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ANC Rally Attracts Thousands in South Africa’s Kwazulu-Natal Province

In a week (April 22) South Africans go to the polls to vote in national and provincial elections. The leading party in the new National Assembly, which many predict will be the ruling ANC, will name the next president.

Today, the ANC's presidential candidate, Jacob Zuma, was out campaigning in Kwazulu-Natal Province, with a rally in Ngwelezane township of Empangeni, about 240 kilometers north of Durban.

Scott Bobb, the head of VOA's Southern Africa Bureau, covered the event. He said between five and ten thousand supporters filled the stadium. Bobb said Zuma's speech, over 40 minutes long, touched on the fight against all-white rule, or apartheid, which ended in 1994 with all-race elections. The ANC leader also talked about the ANC's priorities, which include education, improved housing, and access to electricity and water.

"The ANC," Bobb said, "has been accused of not delivering on some of its promises. It's done quite a bit but there are still a lot of poor people out there waiting for public housing, access to social grants, widows, orphans, and late-starting HIV/AIDS campaign."

Bobb said the speech was also aimed at keeping the youth vote from straying to the opposition: "There is this time bomb of young people who have grown up never knowing the struggle against apartheid," he said.

"[They are] expecting more and are not as loyal, according to polls, to the ANC as some of their parents and grandparents. There is an effort to hold onto the vote because there is a new party [the Congress of the People, or COPE] that split from the ANC, and some of the opposition parties have made headway based on the dissatisfaction with the delivery of promises made over the past 15 years."

Polls show COPE, which is struggling for greater financial support, to be less popular in Kwazulu-Natal than in the nation as a whole, where it enjoys an approval rating of between seven and 15 percent nationwide. Bobb says one of the questions for pundits is whether the ANC will be able to retain its two-thirds majority in parliament, which allows it to overrule the opposition on many things and run almost the whole country on its own.

But polls also show the ANC could lose control of the province of the Western Cape to the opposition Democratic Alliance, which runs Cape Town in a coalition with smaller parties.