Cape Town - The messy break-up of the DA and AgangSA merger that never was took an even uglier turn on Friday as DA leader Helen Zille accused her friend of 40 years, AgangSA founder Mamphela Ramphele, of using her to get money out of donors, intending all along to walk away as soon as she had the funds.
Ramphele in turn, through her spokesman Mark Peach, said Zille’s claim was an “outright lie”.
“Dr Mamphela Ramphele wanted an immediate announcement because she was desperate for money,” Zille told Independent Newspapers on Friday while campaigning in Paarl.
“And the minute we made the announcement she contacted donors and tried to get money. I realised afterwards she was just using me to get the money and she had no intention of continuing,” Zille said.
Asked how she knew this, the DA leader said she knew “exactly, by all the behaviour patterns, before and after; I’ve joined the dots”.
Peach said Zille needed to explain “how it is that she’s doing all of this realising after the fact”.
“Agang has a fundraising department that is in contact with donors on a daily basis and has been for the past year. So any notion that she was suddenly putting special calls through to donors is a flat, outright lie,” Peach said.
He denied a cash crunch had been behind Ramphele’s interest in a deal, saying there was no logic in Zille suggesting AgangSA had no money when it continued to campaign.
Concerning a reported meeting with a donor in London who had put pressure on Ramphele to work with the DA, Peach said she had met people “all over the world”, but “these meetings Helen Zille is dreaming up, you need to ask her about that”.
AgangSA had enough money for its campaign and was “in the field, we are building branches, our work continues”, Peach said.
Zille said she had “never been betrayed quite like this before”.
“When I realised what she was doing I thought ‘I’ve never seen this character trait in her before, never’, and by the end of the week I decided we can’t possibly… in good faith, have her as a presidential candidate for South Africa.”
She admitted it would have been a big mistake if the deal had gone ahead, but said it would have been worse if it had emerged Ramphele had offered to join the DA and the party had rejected her.
“It would have been, ‘Zille is trying to prevent competition’.”
Asked if there was any possibility she would work with Ramphele in the future, she said she would “never say never”. The value of bringing Ramphele on board had been her strong struggle record.
“The critical thing Mamphela brought, which we haven’t got in sufficient number, is people with really strong struggle credentials. I have, but I’m not black.”
This would have countered the belief still held by “too many” that the DA wanted to return to apartheid.
“That was the great value. To destroy that myth, that is what I wanted to do,” Zille said.