The Democratic Alliance has launched its manifesto for the country's May elections, promising to tackle graft. The party faces a resurgent ruling ANC which has governed the country since the end of apartheid in 1994.
South Africa's main opposition on Saturday began a major political offensive to end the ruling African National Congress's (ANC) 25 years in power.
The Democratic Alliance, which controls municipalities in the capital Pretoria and the economic hub of Johannesburg, promised to end the corruption that has tainted the country since the end of apartheid in 1994.
"The South Africa I want to build will have no place for corruption and corrupt politicians," DA leader Mmusi Maimane told supporters at the party's manifesto launch in Johannesburg.
"Our [current] leaders realized they could make money out of every job, out of every contract," Maimane added. "It meant a better life for some... and they forgot about the rest of us."
"While too many of our people didn't have water, some were drinking the finest champagne," he told thousands of the party faithful, gathered at the city's Rand Stadium.
Jail sentences proposed
Maimane warned his political colleagues: "If you are corrupt, you can expect to spend 15 years in jail," vowing to set up a new anti-corruption unit.
The ANC has comfortably won every parliamentary election since it swept to power under Nelson Mandela in 1994.
Supporters of South Africa's main opposition Democratic Alliance attend the launch of the party's election manifesto in Johannesburg
Even so, endemic corruption is still perceived as a major weakness following years of rule by former President Jacob Zuma, who was removed last year after years of corruption probes.
Under new President Cyril Ramaphosa, the party has won back some of its support, after he also vowed to root out graft and boost growth in Africa's most industrialized economy.
South Africa emerged from recession in December but is still dealing with a $30 billion (€26 billion) debt crisis at its state power firm, and stubbornly-high unemployment at 27 percent.
Job creation outlined
At the DA's manifesto launch, Maimane outlined a pledge to create jobs by offering tax incentives to encourage new business and maximize the manufacturing, agriculture and tourism sectors to build the economy.
"If we can put a job in every home we can transform our society," he said.
Twenty-five years after apartheid, South Africa remains deeply divided along racial lines with white citizens mostly enjoying high standards of living, while 63 percent of black citizens live below the poverty line, and struggle to access work, healthcare, and basic government services.
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'Voice of whites' label
Despite attempts to widen the party's appeal, DA is still seen as the voice of white voters and is trying to recover from bitter internal divisions.
Last year, high-profile Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille quit the party over complaints of racism. DA also lost control of the southern city of Nelson Mandela Bay after its coalition partners walked out.
In January, DA lawmaker Gwen Ngwenya quit as head of policy, accusing the leadership of not sticking to their pledges on affirmative action.
DA won 22 percent support during South Africa's last election in 2014, picking up 89 seats in the 400-seat parliament, against the ANC's 249.
As well as a resurgent ANC, however, the party could face pressure in May's election from other small opposition groups which are gaining in popularity.
mm/jm (AFP, Reuters)