Article written

  • on 30.01.2014
  • at 02:30 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

South Africa: Will the ANC Lose Any Sleep over Ramphele’s Merger with the DA? 0

On Tuesday morning, reporters flocked to the Townhouse Hotel in Cape Town expecting to hear that South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), was on the brink of making a pivotal announcement.

Shortly after 10am local time, Helen Zille, the DA’s leader, announced that Mamphela Ramphele, founder and leader of political party Agang SA, would stand as the DA’s presidential candidate for the upcoming general election scheduled for April this year. This means the four most senior figures within the DA are women − the other two being Lindiwe Mazibuko, parliamentary leader, and Patricia de Lille, Mayor of Cape Town. This in itself is a milestone for political and gender progress in a country that suffers from extremely high levels of gender-based violence.

Zille and Ramphele have been friends ever since Zille, then a young journalist, exposed the death of Ramphele’s former partner, Steve Biko, by police torture. Ramphele had been a member of the Black Consciousness Movement founded by Biko, and since then has gone on to be a medical doctor, Managing Director at the World Bank, a prominent businesswoman in the mining industry, and Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town. Last year, she stepped clearly into the field of politics, and her and Zille have appeared to be of one mind on a number of issues.

Will they? Won’t they? Have they?

Speculation had long been rife that Agang SA, which launched in February last year, were in co-operation talks with the DA which, according to Business Day, had reserved for one of its six places on the national election lists for Ramphele. The Agang SA leader herself recently enthused about the prospect of working with the DA, declaring that she would “absolutely consider a coalition.”

Confusing the picture, however, Zille and other senior DA members consistently abstained from officially confirming Ramphele’s inclusion on the lists; while Agang SA spokesman Thabo Leshilo rubbished claims of the party’s leader joining forces with the DA as “ridiculous and mischief-making.” Agang even went as far as sending round a press release on 26 January which implored its supporters to “ignore the speculation.”

Now, one day after the announcement, much remains unclear. Ramphele will be the DA’s presidential candidate, but it is ambiguous if or how Agang SA and the DA will merge. Today, Agang SA stated on its Facebook page that the party will continue to exist, function and campaign as Agang SA. However, the statement admits that the agreement between the two parties hasn’t been “worked out yet”, leaving the door open for Agang SA to be subsumed by the DA. In media appearances thus far, Ramphele has chosen to avoid or dodge these questions rather than tackle them head on. This lack of clarity and non-consultative mode of operating has alienated and angered a number of Agang SA members, who have been airing their views across South African media and social media.

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By James Schneider & Rebecca Meeson-FrizelleThink Africa Press 

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