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South Africa's Opposition Loses its Presidential Candidate

South Africa's Opposition Loses its Presidential Candidate

The agreement in South Africa between the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and purported presidential candidate Mamphela Ramphele has fallen apart less than a week after it was announced, to global fanfare, on Jan. 28. Ramphele issued a statement on Jan. 31 denying that she had agreed to join the DA formally, and DA party leader Helen Zille issued a blistering response, accusing Ramphele of reneging on her agreement.

Those analysts who were skeptical of the alliance between the DA and Ramphele were vindicated. Despite her anti-apartheid credentials and global résumé, former DA research chief Gareth van Onselen wrote, Ramphele’s personality was a challenge: ” In Mamphela Ramphele we have someone willing not just to fashion an entire political party after her own image but to run it into the ground and then abandon it, lock, stock and barrel.”

Another prescient voice had been that of R. W. Johnson, the Oxford historian, who said that Ramphele’s views would clash with the classical liberalism of the DA: “It is bizarre: the party is to be handed over to an imperious and egocentric woman of 67 with no record of DA membership, no discernible liberal principles and no experience of democratic accountability,” he wrote when her agreement with the DA was first announced.

Zille’s official statement seems to have been written more in anger than in sorrow: “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.” The statement implies that Zille was already aware of reasons to doubt Ramphele’s candidacy. If so, she will certainly face more criticism for the failed alliance.

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