South Africa's economy is in safe hands, as can be demonstrated by successful efforts to avoid a downgrade to junk status by international rating agencies, President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday.
Addressing thousands of Africa National Congress (ANC) supporters gathering at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg for the ANC's manifesto launch for local elections in Gauteng Province, Zuma said Standard & Poor (S&P) Global Rating's decision to maintain South Africa's rating showed that by working together, South Africans can reignite the economy.
On Friday, S&P affirmed South Africa's long and short term foreign and local currency bond ratings at "BBB-/A-3" and "BBB+/A-2" respectively. The foreign currency bond rating remains one notch above sub-investment grade whereas the domestic currency bond rating remains three notches above sub-investment grade.
S&P maintained the negative outlook on the rating, citing concerns about economic growth and warned it could lower the rating by year-end or next year if policy measures do not turn the economy around. Alternatively, S&P said it could revise the outlook to stable if they observe policy implementation that leads to an improved business confidence environment and increased private sector investment and ultimately result in higher levels of growth.
In early May, rating agency Moody's also decided to maintain South Africa's rating, refraining from downgrading the country's sovereign rating to sub-investment grade.
On the upcoming local government elections scheduled for August 3, Zuma said the ANC was the only party that has been transparent in its selection of candidates for the elections.
While opposition parties may point to political battles linked to candidate selections, it shows the democracy within the party, he said.
It's important to remember that robust debate shows a democracy at work, Zuma said.
"We are the only organization in this country that is transparent with its processes on identifying and electing councillors," he said to the cheering supporters, numbered at over 80,000.
"In no way can we have any other party being in charge of Gauteng (Province) instead of the ANC," he said.
"We present the ANC again to the people of Gauteng to say this movement is ready, able and determined to improve municipalities," Zuma said.
"No other party must run Gauteng but the ANC. You have a responsibility to protect the home of this mighty organization" he added.
The ANC's provincial branch has set up a social media campaign with the hashtag "Fill up FNB Stadium" weeks before Saturday's manifesto launch.
ANC Gauteng provincial Chairperson Paul Mashatile called upon all ANC supporters to conduct themselves peacefully and adhere to the Independent Electoral Commission's (IEC) rules in the running up to the elections.
Mashatile told the crowd that the ANC will put the youth high on its priority list.
"For more than 104 years, the African National Congress has remained true to its tradition of being a Parliament of the people. As the ANC, we are here to make a solemn pledge that in the coming five years of local government, we will work even harder to build strong democratic transparent and accountable local government," Mashatile said.
He said that service delivery will be improved in ANC-run local governments.
One of ANC supporters, Johns Maluleke, 30, told Xinhua that he was prepared to die for the ruling party.
He said he expected a resounding victory for the ANC in the elections.
"There is no other party I can join. The ANC is my home," he said.
While conceding that the party had some difficulties, he said, "Even though there are mistakes, I want them to fix them because there is no use leaving the ANC."
Thuli Peta, another ANC activist, said: "The ANC is the only party that can improve living conditions in the townships and solve the problem of illegal dumping sites."
Wearing the ANC's regalia, Peta said her education is guaranteed, with Zuma in charge.
The Gauteng manifesto launch is one of the party's most ambitious event ahead of this year's local elections.
The national manifesto launch had been held in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth earlier.
Many of the other provinces have already had their manifesto launches, including the Free State, North West and Northern Cape.