Cape Town -
In what DA leader Helen Zille described as another step in the realignment of politics, former Eastern Cape premier and Cope MP Nosimo Balindlela has resigned her Cope membership and her National Assembly seat to join the DA.
The former teacher and UDF activist, who served as premier in 2004 to 2008, said on Tuesday her decision to join the DA had been easy as “the DA is the future”.
Addressing a press conference announcing her move, Balindlela said she had “the highest respect” for Cope president Mosiuoa Lekota, but the party was going through a “’protracted struggle”.
The ANC, she said, had failed in defending the constitution.
“It has failed to alleviate poverty… and has paid lip service to non-racialism,” said Balindlela, adding that she was passionate about eradicating racism, fighting poverty and building women’s rights.
Balindlela – described by DA Eastern Cape leader Athol Trollip as “the victim of a fractious ANC” in the province – resigned as premier in July 2008 under pressure from the ANC national executive committee.
Her effective axing was announced on the same day as that of ANC Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool. Balindlela resigned from the ANC in November 2008 to join Cope.
Zille said many South Africans, like Balindlela, were frustrated by the divisions in politics.
“Our future lies in transcending obsolete political boundaries. But it takes a courageous person to be among the first to show the way.”
Trollip, who handed Balindlela her DA membership card, said she would be allocated a constituency in the Eastern Cape. She would be tasked with setting up branches and growing the DA in areas where the party still had “a long way to go. She comes from the Eastern Cape and we expect her to do a lot of hard work there to continue to work in grass roots areas”.
In a retort to a question on whether Balindlela had chosen “the politics of the stomach over principle”, Trollip – a critic of Balindlela’s when she was premier – said her move had involved sacrifice.
He said he had no doubt Balindlela would help grow the DA in the province.
“Because she is held in high regard in the Eastern Cape, I have no doubt that in the forthcoming election and elections to come she will… work in the Nelson Mandela metro to win the metro, and to help us in Buffalo City and all the other municipalities that are faring so badly in the Eastern Cape.”
Trollip said Balindlela would also be put to work to “fill the (DA) void” in the Transkei and to help grow the DA in the former Ciskei.
“She has credibility in rural communities worst affected by poverty and patronage.”
Zille said she had known Balindlela for many years as a person of integrity.
Reminded that she had criticised Balindlela when she was fired as Eastern Cape premier, Zille acknowledged this had been the case.
“I was critical of the ANC administration and, by extension, the premier… but if you look at Nosimo’s record, she did her best to deal with corruption (as premier).”
Cope acting chief whip Dennis Bloem described Balindlela as a respected member and leader of the party who had shown commitment to the party’s ideals. “She has chosen a different, but not opposite, path of continuing her political contribution to South Africa,” he said.
Nosimo Balindlela was axed by the ANC in November 2008 and she resigned to join Cope after former president Thabo Mbeki was recalled by the ANC in September of that year.
Balindlela was involved in the struggle against apartheid on the campus of the University of Fort Hare. She was a UDF activist in the 1980s and in 1994 was elected to the Eastern Cape legislature and appointed MEC for Education, Sports and Culture.
She served on the provincial executive committee of the ANC from 1996 to 2008, the provincial working committee from 2004 to 2008, and was provincial chairperson of the ANC Women’s League from 1996 to 2001.