Just five days after an announcement that Agang SA leader Mamphela Ramphele was joining the Democratic Alliance (DA) and standing as its presidential candidate, the marriage is already over.
On Sunday night, DA party leader Helen Zille claimed Ramphele "reneged" on the agreement.
Zille said the respected academic turned politician was playing a "game of cat and mouse" as she backed out of the agreement.
"The Democratic Alliance leadership team today met with Dr Ramphele to finalise the terms of our agreement that she stand as the DA's presidential candidate. This was to be the formalisation of the public announcement made on Tuesday last week," Zille said in a press statement on Sunday.
"At the meeting, Dr Ramphele reneged on the agreement that she stand as the DA's presidential candidate, and that Agang SA's branches, members and volunteers be incorporated into the DA. This about-turn will come as a disappointment to the many South Africans who were inspired by what could have been a historic partnership."
Zille said it was rare for a political party to offer the position of presidential candidate to a leader from another party.
"But we believed this move would be in the best interests of South Africa. People are looking for a strong and united alternative to [President] Jacob Zuma's ANC, and we felt that Dr Ramphele would help us speed up the realignment of politics," said Zille. "Constitutionally, she could only go to Parliament as the DA's presidential candidate if she is a member of the DA."
'In good faith'
Zille said the DA negotiated with Ramphele "in good faith", and elaborated on her reasons for pursuing her to join the party, even though there were many false starts.
"Indeed she is a long-time personal friend of mine and I sought to bring her into politics over many years. We have been through many false starts, but when Dr Ramphele insisted on Monday that we go public on Tuesday to announce her acceptance of our offer of the DA's presidential candidacy, we accepted that she had finally made up her mind.
"By going back on the deal, again, just five days after it was announced, Dr Ramphele has demonstrated – once and for all – that she cannot be trusted to see any project through to its conclusion," said Zille.
"This is a great pity. Since Tuesday's announcement, Dr Ramphele has been playing a game of cat and mouse – telling the media one thing, Agang supporters another thing, and the DA another. It is not clear what her objective is, but whatever it is, it is not in the interests of the South African people."
The Mail & Guardian called Ramphele on Sunday to arrange an interview, but she did not respond to calls or text messages.
Zille said the DA would nevertheless continue to build "a non-racial political alternative in South Africa".
"We have the values, we have the structures, we have the machinery and we have the depth of leadership to succeed," she said.
Ramphele's about-turn became evident to South Africans on Friday, just days after the press conference to announce her as the DA's presidential candidate. At a press conference in Cape Town on Tuesday, Ramphele was photographed kissing Zille as the pair sealed the deal.
The DA then issued a joint statement, claiming it would be welcoming Ramphele and her Agang SA followers to the party.
But Ramphele posted a formal statement on the Agang SA website opposing the "joint statement", and claiming she would not be accepting DA membership.
The DA has announced a press conference to be held on Monday in Johannesburg. In a show of force, Zille, DA federal chairperson Wilmot James, DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko and the party's national spokesperson Mmusi Maimane, will brief the media on Ramphele's "reneging".