‘Give change a chance’: South African opposition leader Maimane

May 05, 2019

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South African main opposition party Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane (centre) gestures during the final presidential election campaign rally of the DA at the Dobsonville Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday.—AFP
South African main opposition party Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane (centre) gestures during the final presidential election campaign rally of the DA at the Dobsonville Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday.—AFP

SOWETO: The leader of South Africa’s main opposition party urged voters on Saturday to give “change a chance” in next week’s general election after 25 years of ANC rule.

“Let us be brave and give change a chance,” Mmusi Maimane told more than 10,000 Democratic Alliance supporters at Dobsonville stadium in Soweto.

South Africans go to the polls on Wednesday in one of the most competitive national elections since the first multi-racial vote in 1994.

Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress, which led the struggle to end apartheid, has won every election since then.

But addressing his final and biggest rally before the vote, Maimane said it was time for change as the country battles corruption, poverty and high unemployment.

“Today the choice is between fear and bravery. If South Africans were not brave, I bet you apartheid would still be in place.

“We are brave and we are going to show courage and hope for change in this election”.

He condemned the ANC for going from from “leaders in the struggle for freedom” to those who now “stand directly in the way of freedom”.

“They were once our liberators but today we need to be liberated from them,” Maimane told the cheering crowd in his home township.

Donald Mlangeni, 28, said in the last election in 2014 he had voted for the ANC, but now he will go with the DA.

“We are going to put an end to corruption,” he said, complaining that he struggles to get access to basics such as water at his house. “I think the DA will bring change. At least let’s give them a chance”.

Ketsie Kobedi, 67, echoed a view driven by disappointment with the ANC that things were actually better under white rule.

“We want to go back to the white people era when things were in order. We don’t trust the ANC because of corruption,” she said.

The DA, which has been the largest opposition party in South Africa for the past 19 years, has hammered away on the ANC’s failure to deliver Mandela’s dream of a prosperous and equal South Africa.

Its popularity has steadily grown over the years to 22 percent in the last election. During the 2016 local government elections the DA wrested control of the commercial hub of Johannesburg and the administrative capital Pretoria, from the ANC.

For the past decade, the DA has also been in charge of the Western Cape — one of the country’s best run provinces.

Plagued by intra-party wrangling, the DA is not expected to move much in numbers at Wednesday’s polls, according to latest pre-voting surveys, which give the ANC a victory of up to around 60 percent of the ballots cast.

“This is not a popularity contest. This is about competence. I’m merely asking you to employ a government with a proven track record. But let us first prove to you that we can do this job because I know we can. I have no doubt that the DA can turn South Africa around,” said Maimane.

“Yes we can!” said Maimane concluding his 40-minute long speech, borrowing former US president Barack Obama’s famous campaign slogan.

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2019