JOHANNESBURG — South African President Jacob Zuma says he's confident his ANC party will win this week's elections "overwhelmingly", despite a mounting cloud of corruption allegations. The African National Congress has won every national poll for 20 years but has received increasing criticism in recent years.
Zuma has been busy in the final days ahead of elections Wednesday - the fifth national vote since South Africa became an inclusive democracy in 1994.
The ANC has dominated polls since that first free vote and Zuma told reporters Monday that he's sure they'll do it again on May 7.
"We think the ANC will win the elections. Overwhelmingly, not just by, you know, skin of the teeth," said Zuma.
Local pollsters have predicted the ANC will win with 63 percent of the vote.
In a lengthy and wide-ranging two-hour briefing, Zuma struck a far different tone than he did Sunday during the party's massive "siyanqoba," or victory, rally.
There, at a packed Soweto stadium, he sang, danced and appealed to the ANC's large base, which, like South Africa itself, is diverse but is mostly black and poor.
For Monday morning's press briefing, he jettisoned his flashy green and gold ANC outfit for a professorial oxblood red blazer. He also attempted to address a report by the nation's public protector that found he misused some $23 million dollars of public funds to make renovations to his private homestead, Nkandla.
Zuma devoted 20 minutes to explaining his case, but also said he wasn't worried about the corruption allegation's effect at the polls.
"I'm not worried about Nkandla," he said. "It's not my problem. Nor is [it] a problem of the people that I've been campaigning. In all the provinces I've gone, not a single person has asked a question …. not a single person has asked a question, either in the rallies or in the houses that I've gone to.
Zuma went on to say, "The people who have been talking about it is you guys, the media, and the opposition. The people are not worried about it."
Zuma's camp has said the improvements were for presidential security. Those improvements to his home in rural KwaZulu-Natal province included a swimming pool, a cattle enclosure, a chicken run, a visitors' center and an amphitheater.
But in a surprising disclosure, Zuma explained why he needed security at the estate.
"There were issues that called for security, particularly in my homestead," he said. "My homestead was burned twice during violence. And secondly, my wife, criminals came and raped my wife during the time I was still the MEC. … So the issue of security at Nkandla has not been a theoretical issue."
He declined to provide details, such as when exactly the attack happened - other than that detail that it was when he a member of the ANC's executive council (MEC), prior to his presidency. He did not say how many assailants were involved, if a police report was filed or which one of his four known wives was attacked.
A senior ANC spokesman declined to give more details of the incident when asked, saying he was "not comfortable" doing so.
Zuma has given voters a lot to think about in a nation that has been on a 20-year roller coaster ride, from the end of apartheid to the inclusive, but hardly perfect, Rainbow Nation it is today.
Critics of the ANC tend to point out corruption scandals and the millions of South Africans who still lack access to electricity and clean water, two decades after the end of white minority rule.
Despite this, the party appears on track to win big in Wednesday's election, and spend another five years in power.