DA Members are seen at the DA Gauteng Provincial Congress 2017 at the Gallagher Conventional Centre in Midrand. Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/ANA

Johannesburg - DA leader Mmusi Maimane has warned that “corruption is the new oppression in South Africa” and accused the ANC government under President Jacob Zuma of being similar to the apartheid government.

“The rich are getting richer in South Africa. The face of poverty in our country is largely black,” Maimane said when he addressed thousands of his party’s supporters during the Gauteng DA’s provincial elective conference at the Gallagher Convention Centre on Saturday.

At the congress, John Moodey was retained as provincial party leader for the third time, following a fierce battle with party newcomer and MP Ghaleb Cachalia.

Mike Moriarty was elected DA provincial chairman, replacing Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga, who wanted to focus on his mayoral job.

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Maimane urged the DA leaders to set their sights on winning Gauteng after 2019, saying the current government had failed the people.

“When our country left the brutality of apartheid behind and took its first steps as a democracy, South Africans were promised a better life. They were promised a chance to take control of their own lives through quality education, through access to economic opportunities, through ownership of property.”

He said the people were promised economic freedom and indepen- dence, but for millions that promise never materialised.

“Yes, many communities have been uplifted in the past two decades. Many more people have homes and electricity and water. "But it’s not enough,not by a long shot.

“I am grateful for our freedom and I know you are too. But this South Africa, where the rich get richer and the poor remain stuck in hardship and despair, isn’t the South Africa we were promised. It would seem our divided worlds are drifting apart. It is not the South Africa Madiba wanted, and it is not the South Africa Helen Suzman wanted,” Maimane said.

He said over 30 million South Africans now lived below what was known as the upper poverty line. One in seven faced extreme food poverty, and the unemployment rate was now at about 36 percent.

Maimane said the situation was worsening because the economy was paralysed, with no growth.

The country was dipping in and out of recession, had been downgraded to junk status and national debt was growing.

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“Forget about the ANC’s December conference - nothing that happens there will make any difference to the predicament we find ourselves in. How can an organisation focused on the past be trusted to build a new future?

"We must focus on building our economy. If Eskom defaults on its spiralling debt and the captured Malusi Gigaba is forced to bail them out, it will certainly mean a further downgrade,” Maimane said.

He was adamant that those who were going to be hardest hit were the most vulnerable, saying “life for poor, black South Africans is getting tougher by the day”.

“The face of poverty in our country is still largely black. These people are not poor because they are black. They are poor because apartheid deliberately kept them away from opportunities and deliberately under-educated them. Today they remain poor because a corrupt system, designed to look after the elite at the expense of the poor, keeps them in poverty. Corruption is the new oppression," he said.

“This system pockets enormous amounts of tax money meant to be spent on the people. This system cannot produce jobs because all investment is killed off where corruption is allowed to flourish."

Sunday Independent