Embattled South African President Jacob Zuma told ruling African National Congress members Sunday the party is capable of running the continent's biggest economy and that meaningful economic change would come soon, as he sought re-election as party leader.
Mr. Zuma addressed some 4,000 delegates gathered in the central city of Bloemfontein to choose the ANC's leadership for the next five years.
He staunchly defended his much-criticized term in office, stating that after securing democracy, South Africa was ready to “focus on achieving meaningful socio-economic freedom.” Mr. Zuma told delegates that perceptions the South African economy is “falling apart” are unfounded.
Mr. Zuma's time in office has been marked by a series of scandals and he has been harshly criticized for his handling of the economy. Millions of black South Africans remain in poverty 18 years after the ANC took power.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe is hoping to wrest control of the party from Mr. Zuma. Whoever the ANC picks will likely be the next president of South Africa's 50 million people. No opposition parties can currently challenge the ANC's popularity.
Analysts almost universally have bet on Mr. Zuma over the quiet, professorial Motlanthe. Delegates will vote in the coming days.
South Africa has faced a series of credit ratings downgrades as unemployment remained stubbornly high and growth slowed to the slowest rate in three years. The vital mining sector has been hit by waves of violent unrest including the killing of 34 miners by police in August.