South Africa’s former deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, is preparing to leave the African National Congress (ANC) and join the Congress of the People (Cope), the Sunday Times reported.
Officials for Mlambo-Ngcuka, who was deputy president under Thabo Mbeki until he was ousted as state president by the ANC last September, were not immediately available to comment on her possible defection to Cope.
She would be the highest profile ANC member and former government official to jump to the new party, which was formed late last year by a group of pro-Mbeki former ministers. Mlambo-Ngcuka was among those who resigned along with Mbeki.
”The Sunday Times has been told that she was initially scheduled to publicly defect from the ANC on January 24 when Cope launched its election manifesto in Port Elizabeth,” the newspaper said in a front-page story.
”Senior party officials said her public announcement had to be postponed for the second time on Friday.”
Cope has vowed to contest a general election expected in April and has signalled that it will seek to capitalise on anxiety among middle-class voters and business over the influence of trade unions and communists in the ANC.
Mlambo-Ngcuka could help the new party expand its base among women. The party is led by former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota, and other Mbeki loyalists hold senior positions.
But there remain doubts that Cope can gain enough traction to be a serious contender to the ANC, which has won two-thirds of the vote in previous elections and is expected to enter the campaign with a decided financial advantage.
President Kgalema Motlanthe, who replaced Mbeki, is expected to announce the election date next week.
But Cope could gain enough votes to deny the ANC a parliamentary majority. There is also talk of the new party forming a coalition with other opposition parties.
Cope has hinted that it will embrace much of Mbeki’s economic agenda and soften some of the government’s more controversial policies, including land redistribution and black economic empowerment.
It also hopes to gain mileage out of the corruption scandals that have dogged the ANC and its leader, Jacob Zuma.
Last month South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeals reinstated bribery, fraud and other charges against Zuma after ruling that a lower court had erred in dismissing the case.
The lower court ruling had triggered the removal of Mbeki, who was accused by the ANC of trying to use the case to smear Zuma.
Proceedings in the Zuma case are set to resume in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on August 25. — Reuters