Socialist Party of Azania youth president Mandla Phangwa, leader Lybon Mabasa and Azapo president Jake Dikobo announced the postponement of their proposed merger following disagreements over who should be the face of the new party during next years elections. Photo: Boxer Ngwenya

Johannesburg - The proposed merger of Azapo and the Socialist Party of Azania (Sopa) suffered a major setback as they failed to agree on who should lead the party ahead of the national elections.

Five months ago, Azapo leader and sole parliamentarian Jake Dikobo and Sopa leader Lybon Mabasa enthusiastically announced their “total merger” following their split 15 years ago.

On Wednesday, however, Dikobo and Mabasa said their merger was experiencing glitches from their individual branches and regions across the country.

“We had to go through many obstacles and to date we have shown our resolve that we are committed to this unity. Each of the two merged organisations has gone through challenges within to make this unity a reality,” Mabasa said.

“As expected, this process was supposed to have found conclusion, culminating in a unity congress, but despite great success in agreeing on policies, name, the transition period and an agreed way of setting up leadership, the process remains unconcluded due to problems facing one of the merging parties,” Mabasa said.

Dikobo and Mabasa agreed that some of the senior leaders in Azapo were opposed to both of them being the faces of the merged parties on the Independent Electoral Commission’s ballot paper.

The parties had agreed on a twin presidency of Dikobo and Mabasa, which would last for a period of two years before a new president could be elected, but according to insiders, it was opposed by senior Azapo leaders.

Insiders told The Star that Azapo’s senior central executive committee wants Dikobo alone on the ballot paper.

This major development led to the parties postponing their planned national merger congress at the weekend.

According to both parties, the congress was aimed at discussing preparations for the upcoming national elections and selection of candidates to represent the parties in the national and nine provincial legislatures.

Instead, Azapo would be holding a central executive committee meeting at the weekend to discuss the unity impasse.

Dikobo and Mabasa emphatically denied that their 15-year differences were still continuing to divide the Black Consciousness adherents along ideological lines or around personalities.

The media statement issued on Wednesday suggested that Mabasa was vindicated in his views that he broke ranks with Azapo 15 years ago because it had abandoned socialism.

In their statement, the parties wrote about the merger: “It was agreed that we were setting up an organisation that was not going to be subordinated to market-driven policies that perpetuate the poverty and overwhelming disadvantage of our people, an organisation that will unashamedly defend the black majority.”

But, 15 years ago, supporters of these parties had mixed feelings about the split.

While Mabasa had accused Azapo of having abandoned socialism, insiders claimed that the split was due to personality clashes and not ideological.

Mabasa was believed to be part of the “internal” Black Consciousness group who were unhappy about Azapo’s leadership being taken over by the “exiled group”, who included former president Mosibudi Mangena.

These disagreements emerged after the unbanning of liberation movements in 1990.

The disagreements became so serious that none of the Black Consciousness movements took part in the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.

In 1998, Mabasa broke ranks with Azapo and formed Sopa.

After the media conference, Dikobo and Mabasa expressed confidence that the differences would be resolved before next year’s elections.

The Star