By Mfuneko Toyana
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s ruling African National Congress wants the national budget “re-prioritized” to focus on tackling poverty, unemployment and inequality following local election defeats this month, the party said on Sunday.
The ANC lost its majority in key urban districts including Johannesburg, the municipality encompassing the capital Pretoria and the symbolically important Nelson Mandela Bay municipality – its biggest setbacks since coming to power in 1994 at the end of white-minority rule.
The ANC will take bold action to address the party’s shortcomings, Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe told reporters after a four-day meeting of the party’s leadership in the National Executive Council (NEC).
Mantashe said the ANC wanted the cabinet to discuss changes to the budget at its next meeting.
“The NEC viewed the outcome of the elections as a clarion call of the people to the liberation movement to urgently take steps to speed up the programs of change, and rectify the many subjective weaknesses affecting its capacity,” Mantashe said.
“It was noted that our poor performance in the 2016 local government elections is a serious setback to the cause of social transformation.”
Mantashe also said the ANC took collective responsibility for the election results and would not lay the blame on President Jacob Zuma.
Opposition parties have said the election results were a referendum on Zuma’s leadership and he should stand down.
“Should we blame one person for the performance for the ANC? All of us in the NEC must take responsibility,” Mantashe said.
“There was no proposal from the floor for the president to step down,” Mantashe said in response to a question about whether anyone in the ANC top council wanted Zuma to resign.
Zuma rattled investors in December last year by changing finance ministers twice in a week, sending the rand plummeting.
The president then survived an impeachment vote in April after the Constitutional Court said he had broken the law by ignoring an order to repay some of $16 million in state funds spent on renovating his private home. Zuma has since said he will repay some of the money, as ordered by the court.
Mantashe also said on Sunday there was a need to deal with perceptions that the ANC was soft on corruption, arrogant and self-serving.
(Writing by Joe Brock; editing by Mark Heinrich, Greg Mahlich)