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Cope announces support for Agang, DA merger

Congress of the People (Cope) president Mosiuoa Lekota praised the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Agang on the merger that he said is good for democracy. Lekota was reacting to news that Agang leader Mamphela Ramphele is the DA's presidential candidate and her party's merger with the country's official opposition party.

DA leader Helen Zille made the announcement on Tuesday morning in Cape Town, flanked by Ramphele and several prominent DA leaders.

Lekota said Cope has for some time advocated for all opposition political parties to forge a close working relationship.

"Soon after the formation of Cope, we were right at the forefront of reorganising opposition politics to make sure that we do not work against each other, but rather with each other, especially on areas where there is clear agreement," he said.

Cope had itself embarked on talks with the DA on possibilities of working together, but resistance from within the ANC breakaway party halted the move, with suspicions that the DA wanted to swallow Cope. The party however continued working with other opposition parties, resulting in an announcement of a coalition arrangement in December.

"We have recently taken this commitment a step further with the establishment of the Collective for Democracy, where the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) and the United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP) agreed to co-operate on 20 areas where the parties have taken a similar position," Lekota said in a statement after the DA’s announcement.

Opposition parties have held several talks over the past two years trying to find ways to unseat the ANC, a much stronger political party that’s been governing South Africa since 1994. Little progress had been made so far, but the DA's announcement signalled a step forward.

This is the second political party that has been folded by the DA, though Agang denies that merging with Zille's party means the death of the seven-month-old party. Patricia de Lille's Independent Democrats also merged with the DA and has now been dissolved into the second biggest political party in the country. 

Lekota sees this as strengthening the opposition: "This development [merger] is good for South Africa, and will go a long way in promoting multi-party democracy with a robust opposition and change of ineffective government," he said. 

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Mmanaledi Mataboge
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