South African Parties Wind Up Campaigns Ahead of Pivotal Vote

(Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s political parties began winding up their campaigns ahead of next week’s pivotal elections, with the ruling African National Congress and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters staging huge rallies that highlighted their mass appeal.

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The May 29 vote is set to be the most hotly contested since apartheid ended, with a series of opinion polls showing the ANC risks losing its parliamentary majority for the first time since it took power three decades ago. President Cyril Ramaphosa has dismissed suggestions that the party may be forced into a coalition government and it’s formidable campaign machinery has kicked into high gear over the past few weeks, with its leaders and officials going door-to-door to rally support.

ANC supporters clad in yellow, green and black filled the 94,736-seat FNB stadium in Soweto near Johannesburg on Saturday for its final rally, where they were entertained by traditional dancers and addressed by the party’s labor union and communist allies.

“We have seen a massive outpouring of support for the ANC across the country,” Ramaphosa said in his keynote address. “The ANC is loved in South Africa, whether they like it or not. It is for this reason that the ANC is going to emerge victorious.”

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The EFF, which was founded by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema in 2013 and has attracted a strong following among the youth with its calls to nationalize mines and banks, drew more than 50,000 supporters to the Peter Mokaba stadium in the northern town of Polokwane.

““Our people must must come out in their numbers,” Malema told the crowd, most of whom were clad in red party T-shirts. “If the youth come out, we will collapse the government.”

About 9,000 supporters of the main opposition Democratic Alliance attended its penultimate rally on a sports field in the Cape Town suburb of Belhar on Saturday, with another event scheduled for Sunday in Benoni near Johannesburg.

“If we stay energized, we will rewrite the story of South Africa next week by defeating the ANC for the first time ever, and electing a new national government, anchored by a strong DA, that can rescue South Africa,” its leader John Steenhuisen told the crowd.

The uMkhonto weSizwe Party, which was founded by former President Jacob Zuma and is seen to be the wild card in the election, is due to hold its final rally in the eastern Mpumalanga province on Sunday.

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--With assistance from Rob Dawson.

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