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South African Opposition Leaders End Pact to Challenge ANC

Former Gold Fields Ltd. Chairwoman Mamphela Ramphele
Former Gold Fields Ltd. Chairwoman Mamphela Ramphele has criticized the African National Congress for failing to improve schooling and reduce the 25 percent unemployment rate. Photographer: Stephane De Sakutin/AFP via Getty Images

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Two South African opposition leaders scrapped an accord to present a united front against the ruling African National Congress in this year’s elections less than a week after they pledged to field a joint presidential candidate.

Mamphela Ramphele, the former chairwoman of Gold Fields Ltd. and leader of the Agang SA party who was supposed to be the Democratic Alliance’s presidential candidate, said she made the “right choice” to pull out of the pact with the main opposition party announced on Jan. 29. The agreement broke down when Ramphele insisted on remaining the leader of Agang, DA leader Helen Zille told a separate press conference.

The DA, which won 17 percent of the vote in elections five years ago and controls Western Cape province, traditionally draws the bulk of its support from white and other minority groups. The party was betting Ramphele would help it woo black voters because of rising public anger over a lack of jobs and corruption scandals that have tainted ANC leaders, including President Jacob Zuma.

The belief that a black candidate would ensure winning black votes and that unity between opposition parties will strengthen the challenge to the ANC “is what led the DA to make the mistake it made,” Steven Friedman, director of the Johannesburg-based Centre for the Study of Democracy, said in a phone interview. “The DA didn’t do due diligence of the political product they were buying.”

‘Calculated Risk’

Ramphele said her party could attract the “millions of South Africans who will never vote for the DA.” A survey of 3,564 adults interviewed by Ipsos in October and November gave Agang 1 percent of the vote.

Zille called the decision to field Ramphele for the DA a “calculated risk.”

Ramphele’s decision to remain Agang’s leader and “go back on the deal” torpedoed the agreement.

“Constitutionally, she could only go to parliament as the DA’s presidential candidate if she is a member of the DA,” Zille said. “Over the last week I realized that in good conscience we couldn’t say Dr. Ramphele could be president of South Africa.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Janice Kew in Johannesburg at jkew4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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