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South Africa's ANC vows to extend rule, rivals promise election 'shock'

Supporters of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress (ANC) cheer during their party's final election rally i
Supporters of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress (ANC) cheer during their party's final election rally i

By Stella Mapenzauswa

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's ruling ANC predicted it would sweep national elections this week on promises to build more houses, create jobs and eradicate inequality, but opponents warned of a shock for a party they said was arrogant after 20 years in power.

An Ipsos poll in the Sunday Times newspaper suggested the ANC would win 63.9 percent of the vote, down from 65.9 percent five years ago and short of the two-thirds majority needed in parliament to push through changes to the constitution.

Analysts and critics say Nelson Mandela's movement has lost support due to rising anger among its mainly black supporters over the slow delivery of adequate housing, sanitation, quality education and jobs.

"The ANC lives, the ANC leads. We will be victorious on May 7," President Jacob Zuma told tens of thousands of supporters at the African National Congress's final rally ahead of Wednesday's vote, where it should gain another five-year mandate to govern.

"The ANC has the history, experience, political will, capacity and the determination to ... take South Africa forward," said Zuma, dressed in yellow, green and black party regalia.

He told a packed Johannesburg stadium that the party would focus the next five years on improving education and health, developing rural areas, pressing on with land reforms, fighting crime, creating jobs and transforming an economy still saddled with racial inequalities.

OPPOSITION ADVANCE

The Ipsos poll suggested the main opposition Democratic Alliance would increase its share of the vote to 23.7 percent from 16.7 percent. The Economic Freedom Fighters, a radical leftist party led by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, was expected to garner 4.7 percent in its election debut.

Malema on Sunday reiterated his party's intent to nationalize the country's mines, provide free education and enforce a minimum wage, messages that have resonated with poor blacks resentful that whites still control the bulk of the economy two decades after the end of white-minority rule.

At a Democratic Alliance rally on Saturday, party chiefs said Zuma's administration, dogged by charges of rampant corruption, had veered off track and failed to build on progress made under Mandela, South Africa's first black president, and his successor Thabo Mbeki.

"The ANC has become arrogant because they believe that the voters will carry on voting for them, whatever they do. Well, they are in for a big shock on Wednesday," party leader Helen Zille told supporters.

Zuma's personal approval rating ahead of the vote has been dented by a report by South Africa's top anti-corruption watchdog that he benefited unduly from a $21 million state-funded security upgrade to his private home.

(Editing by Jon Boyle)

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