Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane says the DA is the only party which reflects diversity. Photo: ANA/Brenda Masilela

Tshwane - Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane has lambasted the African National Congress for calling the DA an "apartheid party", and says the ANC will use dirty tricks in the upcoming 2019 national and provincial elections, such as handing out food parcels to buy votes.

"They say we are a white party because they can see we are growing in every village and township. They can see, as I do when I look around this hall, a party united in its glorious diversity," he told delegates at the DA's federal congress at the Tshwane Events Centre in Pretoria on Saturday.

"They say we are the party of apartheid because they know that we are the only party uniting South Africans of all races," Maimane said.

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VIDEO: ANA/Brenda Masilela

The governing ANC was scared and would do anything to discredit the DA, Maimane told delegates. "While they are trying to intimidate us and threaten us, we’ll be out there winning the battle of ideas. And when they are dividing the people of this country, we will be uniting all South Africans, black, white, Indian, and coloured."

Maimane rubbished claims that he was "a puppet for white people" and if the DA won the election he would be replaced by a white person. 

"They even say that I am a puppet of white people and if we win an election I will be replaced by a white person. The truth is that I will never be black enough for them. Because they don’t want black people to think for themselves.

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"They want black people to remain trapped in the politics of race because this is what keeps the ANC in power. That is the truth, democrats. They are afraid of us. They are afraid of a new generation of black South Africans who think differently to them and want to choose their own futures.

"Just as the apartheid government feared white South Africans who rejected their racial nationalism, this ANC government is afraid of those who reject their own nationalism. They are afraid of South Africans of all races who work together to help poor, black people," Maimane said.

The more than 1700 delegates will elect some of the DA's new leadership, while more than 50 resolutions are up for debate, mainly aimed at addressing unemployment. Issues include proposals to expand property ownership and abolish value added tax (VAT). Other resolutions will be considered on land reform, social grants, and jail time for public servants misusing public money.

Two leadership positions - that of party leader Maimane and federal executive chairman James Selfe - will not be contested. The race for federal chairman is between frontrunners Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga and Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip, who has been federal chairman since 2015. He has based his campaign for re-election on his commitment to uphold the DA's core values.

African News Agency/ANA