AgangSA leader Mamphela Ramphele hugs Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille. Its back to the drawing board for the DA after Ramphele pulled out of the alliance. File picture: Mike Hutchings

Johannesburg -

Mamphela Ramphele and DA leader Helen Zille could have learnt a thing or two from Cope’s decision to put up outsider Reverend Mvume Dandala as its presidential candidate.

So says Cope’s spokesman Johann Abrie, reacting to the failed merger between Agang and the DA. Abrie said he was not surprised by the abortive merger as it was a move that usually leads to confusion.

“I spoke to (Cope leader) Mr (Mosiuoa) Lekota last night (Sunday) when the news broke. You see it’s very confusing for the voters. We thought they would have handled this with more caution,” Abrie said.

He said the experience that Cope had from Dandala was “likely one of the biggest errors” the party had ever made.

Dandala, much like Ramphele, was Cope’s presidential candidate, even though he was not the leader of the party. It was the decision the party believes confused many potential voters and ended up costing it about 5 percent of the vote.

The Freedom Front Plus also added its voice on the “failed co-operation” between Agang and the DA.

Party leader Pieter Groenewald. said the “DA-swallowing” of parties such as with the Independent Democrats and nearly Agang, caused many anti-ANC voters of the ID and Agang to be lost.

ANC Eastern Cape elections co-ordinator and spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane said instead of attacking the ANC, “Zille and Ramphele must deal with their failed brief political fling”.

“The DA and Agang SA’s brief political fling was induced by Zille’s political lust to swallow up opposition political parties and to recruit any person just to get power,” said Qoboshiyane.

Zille has conceded that race does matter in South African politics, but denies that her party parachuted black leaders into leadership positions for window dressing purposes.

She said she courted AgangSA leader Mamphela Ramphele primarily because “being black in South African politics today is a powerful message”.

However, Zille said Ramphele’s political pedigree, struggle background and academic achievements also played a role.

Addressing a media briefing in Joburg on Monday, Zille described the former World Bank director as a “world brand” with worldwide reputation as an academic, doctor and manager. “She’s also black. That’s a powerful combination in a South African context, very powerful indeed. We can’t say race doesn’t matter and is irrelevant,” Zille said.

“But certainly if Mamphela had only been black and none of the rest of the many attributes that I have come to know in her she wouldn’t be under consideration. It was a combination that was important.”

This flies in the face of the DA’s non-racialism policy.

Zille said many DA leaders had been parachuted into leadership positions before as part of her calculated risk strategy, and “90 percent of the risks have worked”.

“Not all risks turn out well.”

Denying claims the DA used blacks for window dressing, Zille said the DA merely promoted diversity the party wanted to be “the change we want to see in SA”. Over the past few years, black leaders have been promoted in the DA, including Mazibuko, Maimane and the party’s South Gauteng leader Khume Ramulifho.

Zille agreed that Agang members would have joined the DA directly if they wanted to, saying it was Ramphele who had insisted on a clause that made provisions for the incorporation of her party structures into the DA.

Zille said her friendship with Ramphele had taken a huge knock after the Agang leader’s U-turn on the merger. She made it clear she now thought Ramphele was not a presidential material. “During the course of the past week I realised that we couldn’t in good conscience say Mamphela can be the president of South Africa.”


Ramphele on Monday denied that she was the only one who rushed the deal, saying Zille was equally guilty. She accused the DA of being stuck in race-based politics.

“Someone cannot or will not transcend party politics. The time for this (the proposed merger) was not right.”

Political analyst Professor Susan Booysen said the abortive merger had caused immeasurable damage to both the DA and Agang. Zille’s parachuting of Ramphele into the DA’s presidential candidacy exposed her political naivety, she added. “It really acknowledges to the world that they have no confidence in their ranks, and that includes Mmusi Maimane and Lindiwe Mazibuko”, Booysen said.

She said the DA tried to get Ramphele out of desperation to “break the race feeling of their own support”, but black voters “were not necessarily going to fall into their lap”.

Pretoria News