JOHANNESBURG - Campaigning for South Africa's upcoming elections reached a climax Sunday with mass rallies by the ruling party and one of its most potent challengers, ahead of national elections for president and parliament Wednesday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa's African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela which has been in power since apartheid ended 25 years ago, is expected to win the elections but is dogged by allegations of corruption and lackluster economic performance. The ANC's margin of victory is expected to decline from the 62 percent of the vote it received in the previous elections in 2014.
Addressing the ANC's final rally Sunday, Ramaphosa promised more jobs, economic growth and a drive against corruption at the rally.
"Our young people want jobs and they want them now," said Ramaphosa, who promised to reduce the country's unemployment rate of 27 percent. "We know what needs to be done to increase jobs, to grow the economy."
He pledged to raise 1.4 trillion rand ($100 billion) to invest in the country's economy to create jobs.
Ramaphosa was speaking to thousands of ANC supporters wearing the party's yellow, black and green colors at Johannesburg's Ellis Park rugby stadium, which was nearly full its 62,000 capacity.
Ramaphosa came to power last year after previous president Jacob Zuma, also of the ANC, was forced to resign amid widespread scandals.
"We've taken decisive steps to fight corruption across the country," said Ramaphosa. "The era of impunity is over. We are now in an era of accountability."
However, the view that the ANC tolerates corruption is expected to hurt the party in the polls.
On the other side of Johannesburg, in in Soweto, the city's largest black township, thousands gathered for a competing rally by the Economic Freedom Fighters, a populist, leftist party. Firebrand leader Julius Malema, who split from the ANC, is set to address the rally, despite the death of his grandmother Saturday. Malema has campaigned on vows to expropriate white-owned land without compensation and to nationalize the country's mines.