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Opposition parties seek to dip into Ramphele's expected political plans

Nickolaus Bauer

Ahead of Mamphela Ramphele's big announcement, opposition parties have not ruled out the possibility of jointly contesting next year's elections.

Opposition parties say they could contest next year's national elections under one umbrella. (AFP)

South African opposition politics could change dramatically this week as anti-apartheid icon Mamphela Ramphele looks set to enter the fray and existing parties move to unite under one umbrella.

Monday will see Ramphele end weeks of speculation when she announces her political plans for the future at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg.

Rumours of the birth of a new political party abounded since late January after Ramphele was quoted during a visit to the US saying she was "entering politics to save her country".

Ramphele also resigned from her position as chairperson of mining house Gold Fields last week, further fuelling speculation of her intentions to enter active politics.

The anti-apartheid activist’s announcement follows a declaration made last week by the Democratic Alliance (DA) and other opposition parties that they are investigating the possibility of contesting the 2014 general elections under one political umbrella.

“What we need in South Africa is for voters to have something different to the ANC and we all need to work together in achieving that,” DA federal chairperson Wilmot James told the Mail & Guardian on Sunday.

James said any joining of forces would be based on “mutual understanding” and common “values and principles”.

James also did not rule out the possibility of the DA and other opposition parties working together with Ramphele’s prospective political formation.

It remains unclear what impact Ramphele's touted entry into politics would have or who would join her in any prospective movement.

Multi-party opposition forum
Names that have been bandied about so far include political analysts Moeletsi Mbeki and Prince Mashele, as well as former science and technology minister Mosibudi Mangena, although all three have denied involvement.

Media reports suggested last year that Ramphele would be joining the DA as a replacement for incumbent leader Helen Zille, but reports suggested discussions over a possible alliance with the official opposition never really got off the ground.

The DA, Congress of the People, Independent Democrats, African Christian Democratic Party, Freedom Front Plus, Inkhatha Freedom Party, United Christian Democratic Party, Pan Africanist Congress, United Democratic Movement (UDM) and Azanian People's Organisation all form part of the multi-party opposition forum that seeks to unseat the ruling ANC in next year's election.

“In order to sustain opposition politics we need to start looking at the possibility of forming a broad church,” UDM president Bantu Holomisa said.

“The results from the 2009 election makes it clear the voters would prefer a simple choice of two options. We should try and give them what they want.”

Holomisa said ideology is no longer the key to attracting votes but rather being united behind the common goal of a better life for all South Africans.

“If the ANC can manage to work together with communists, capitalists, socialists and former members of the old National Party – then why can’t opposition parties?” he added.

Although details remain unclear as to how and under what conditions the formation of one political umbrella would occur, James claimed the DA would be the base of any unified grouping.

“You need a cohesive alternative and the DA can form the basis of this alternative. We are the senior partner to these talks and would be willing to contest next year’s elections alone if it comes to that,” he added.

'The level of desperation'
The ANC have laughed off the multi-party forum’s declaration of intent to unseat the ruling party.

“It just shows the level of desperation of the opposition,” Keith Khoza, ANC spokesperson, told the M&G.

“They have never made a lasting impact and will never make an impact on South African politics – now or in the future.”

Khoza said the initiative would result in a “pseudo two party contest” that would cause confusion among voters.

“It would kill the plurality of diverse views in South African politics and it doesn’t bode well for our multi-party democracy. The only party that would benefit from this is the DA.”


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