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S.African opposition targets job crisis ahead of polls

South Africa’s main opposition party vowed Wednesday to fight key local elections on the issue of unemployment as it plots to challenge the African National Congress (ANC) that has ruled since apartheid.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) hopes to make major gains in municipal elections due between May and August, tapping into widespread discontent over South Africa’s dire economy.

Unemployment stands at more than 25 percent, with the number rising to near 40 percent including those who have given up looking for work.

“We want to make job creation a new national cause,” DA leader Mmusi Maimane told thousands of party supporters at a rally in central Johannesburg.

“Unemployed South Africans must know this: President (Jacob) Zuma and the ANC have long forgotten you.

“It all begins with voting for a government… that prioritises changing the future of the unemployed.”

The South African rand has hit new record lows against the dollar this year, reflecting the country’s growing economic troubles as commodity prices fall, growth slows sharply and investors lose confidence.

The DA’s campaign centres on its claim that about 770 South Africans become jobless every day.

But the statistic has been described as “misleading” by Africa Check, a fact-checking website created by, but editorially independent of, the AFP Foundation.

It said the figure did not include newly-created jobs, miscalculated the number of those who have given up looking for work, and used two different unemployment surveys.

The DA stuck by its unemployment statistics, which were displayed on a huge billboard where Wednesday’s march was held.

Ahead of the event, the billboard was badly vandalised, with the DA blaming ANC activists.

The DA took 22 percent of votes in the 2014 general election, which was easily won by the ANC.

South Africa will next hold general elections in 2019.