NOT even a week after having entered into a political arrangement with the Democratic Alliance (DA), Agang SA leader Mamphela Ramphele has walked away from it.
Her decision is likely to draw withering criticism from her critics who will see it as yet another example of what they say is her political ineptitude.
DA leader Helen Zille made the dramatic announcement on Sunday night after a meeting with Dr Ramphele to formalise the agreement they had announced on Tuesday.
Ms Zille said Dr Ramphele had reneged on the agreement to be the DA’s presidential candidate as well as to incorporate Agang’s members, the party’s volunteers and its branches 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," Ms Zille said.
The meeting on Tuesday between the two leaders came after a week in which Dr Ramphele sent out conflicting messages about her intentions and one in which Agang members had loudly expressed their opposition to an agreement with the DA.
Agang plans to hold a press conference on Monday morning to clarify its new position.
Ms Zille said it was "rare indeed 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".
She added: "People are looking for a strong and united alternative to Jacob Zuma’s ANC, and we felt that Dr Ramphele would help us speed up the realignment of politics.
"Constitutionally, she could only go to Parliament as the DA’s presidential candidate if she were a member of the DA."
Ms Zille said the DA had negotiated with Dr Ramphele in good faith.
"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. 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, 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," Ms Zille said.
She said the DA would "nevertheless continue with its historic mission to build a nonracial 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."
Agang spokesman Mark Peach insisted on Sunday that Dr Ramphele had never intended for the party to be simply absorbed into the DA, but for the two parties to merge into something bigger, better and more compelling. She did not want to simply entrench party politics but to transcend it by creating something new.
Regarding the ultimate outcome, Mr Peach said Agang’s position had never been that there would be a merger in which the DA simply co-opted and took over Agang, as this would have devalued Agang’s achievements. It had a political machinery in place involving nearly 200,000 volunteers and branches all over the country.
Breytenbach back in the spotlight
Meanwhile, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) senior prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach, who is among the DA’s parliamentary candidates this year, is facing charges of fraud and corruption.
Ms Breytenbach — who resigned from her position, which she will relinquish at the end of April — has been accused in a report compiled by the NPA’s integrity management unit of receiving a $1m loan from businessman Nathan Kirsh, who allegedly supported her financially in her labour dispute with the NPA.
She also allegedly failed to declare conflicts of interest and is said to have prosecuted two cases in which Mr Kirsh was the complainant.
However, the DA was not fazed by Sunday’s newspaper revelations regarding Ms Breytenbach, describing them as "nothing more than an election smear tactic".
"The timing of these allegations — a week after advocate Breytenbach announced her candidacy for a DA seat in Parliament — is not co-incidental. We therefore view the allegations against (her) … with scepticism, if not contempt," DA federal executive chairman James Selfe said.
"The NPA’s credibility as an institution that prosecutes without fear or favour evaporated when it discontinued the prosecution against Jacob Zuma for 783 counts of racketeering, fraud, corruption and money laundering, and further when it steadfastly refused to hand over the ‘spy tapes’ to the DA, despite a Supreme Court of Appeal order to do so."
Ms Breytenbach’s lawyer, Gerhard Wagenaar, said he could not say anything about the allegations as his client had not yet received the report. He also said she was prevented by the terms of her employment contract from saying anything about them.