JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s main opposition the Democratic Alliance launched its election manifesto on Saturday in the economic hub of Johannesburg, one of the key areas it wants to wrestle from the ruling party in local polls in August.
The party, which already governs one of the country’s nine provinces, has chipped away at the ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) large majority, growing its share of votes to 22 percent from 16 percent in national polls in 2014.
The elections are set to be the most fiercely contested in the 22 years since the fall of apartheid due to growing unhappiness over corruption in government and persistently high unemployment as the continent’s most-industrialised economy teeters on the brink of a recession.
A poll by Ipsos in March found that 29 percent of the people interviewed were planning vote for the ANC, while 26 percent said they would vote for the opposition Democratic Alliance.
On Saturday the centre-right party, which has positioned itself as a market-friendly alternative to the left-leaning ANC, promised the more than 20,000 supporters crammed into the Rand Stadium an “honest government” that would create jobs and deliver services.
“It is a referendum on the future of our country,” leader of the party Mmusi Maimane said referring to the Aug. 3 polls.
“The ANC governs as if black lives don’t matter,” said 35-year-old Maimane, who became the DA’s first black leader a year ago as it looked to counter perceptions that it is a white party and capture a larger slice of the black, working and middle class vote.
“We have seen an increase in corruption, starting at the very top. We have a president who was found by the Constitutional Court to have broken the Constitution and the law,” Maimane said in a speech.
The party’s mayoral candidates took turns accusing the ANC-led government of misusing state funds and failing to grow the economy, saying its bid to impeach the president in March that was easily defeated by the ANC’s majority in parliament was proof the ruling party put corruption ahead of the people.
The impeachment bid was triggered by a court ruling last month that found President Jacob Zuma had violated the constitution by refusing to reimburse the state part of the $16 million spent on renovating his home.