Newly elected Democratic Alliance (DA) party leader Mmusi Maimane, delivers his victory speech after being elected leader Sunday, May 10, 2015 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. South Africa's main opposition group on Sunday chose its first black leader at a party congress, seeking to expand its appeal in a country whose ruling party has dominated since the first all-race elections in 1994. (AP Photo/Michael Sheehan)

Durban - Unemployment is the biggest challenge to the South Africa that Nelson Mandela and his peers envisaged as they fought the apartheid regime, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said on Saturday.

Maimane made the comments at the Bokamoso Community Project Centre in Soweto as he celebrated Mandela Day with the community.

“Unemployment has increased from 30.4 percent in 2009, to 36.1 percent in 2015. This is arguably the biggest challenge to building the South African that Nelson Mandela and his peers fought for,” he said.

Maimane pointed out that the worst affected were the youth, among whom unemployment rates were even higher.

“We talk about the so-called ‘born free’ generation, but in truth no one is affected more harshly by unemployment than young people. Of those who are unemployed, two out of every three are young people,” Maimane pointed out.

He said South Africans needed a level playing field and good quality education to break the cycle of poverty and unemployment.

He said Mandela had recognised that apartheid had robbed millions of South Africans of opportunities.

At the centre, Maimane praised those who were making an effort to create jobs, including those in small businesses.

He said that even bigger steps were required to tackle the unemployment and restore pride to all South Africans.

“Nelson Mandela fought for freedom, but freedom without economic opportunity is meaningless. The best way to honour Madiba’s memory is to build an inclusive economy that allows for all our people to live a life they value,” Maimane concluded.