President Jacob Zuma vowed on Wednesday that the ANC party will rule South Africa "forever" as the country prepares for elections within the next few months, the City Press reported.
"We will continue to run this government forever and ever. Whether they [detractors] like it or not," Zuma was quoted as telling ANC supporters in Zulu.
He was speaking during an impromptu door-to-door campaign in a township in Mbombela, the capital of Mpumalanga province, where the party will on Friday launch its election manifesto and kick off the polls campaign.
He urged his supporters to vote in numbers to ensure that the ANC garners 90% of votes in the province, which is already a stronghold.
Observers predict a fall in nationwide support for the ANC this year, to around 60% or less.
Repeated corruption scandals, increasing crime levels, poverty, high unemployment levels and internal bickering are hurting the ANC's popularity.
The country's largest labour union, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, decided last month to ditch the ANC and will not campaign for it nor support it financially in the upcoming polls.
But the ANC leader scoffed at suggestions that support for his party is waning.
"They are dreaming while they are awake. We are going to hammer them," said Zuma in remarks quoted and translated by the City Press. "We are stronger than before."
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu confirmed to AFP that Zuma had been quoted correctly.
The president's statement infuriated the opposition, which accused him of using intimidating tactics.
"The ANC is resorting to scaring and intimidating voters," said James Masango, chairperson of the opposition Democratic Alliance in Mpumalanga.
"These thinly veiled threats are symptoms of a party and a president that is feeling the heat," said Masango.
Masango labelled Zuma's statement as "anti-democratic" and "unbecoming" of a president of a republic.
Zuma declared in 2008 that his party would "rule until Jesus comes back".
Zuma (71) was first elected to office in 2009.
As the party's leader he is almost certain to be its presidential candidate in the polls, the date for which has yet to be fixed. – Sapa-AFP