DEMOCRATIC Alliance leader Helen Zille has called for the formation of a new political party to challenge the ANC. Zille, who is standing for another term as party leader, said yesterday the historical roots of the existing political parties were making it difficult for them to challenge the dominant position of the ANC alone.
"The truth is none of our existing political parties, as currently constituted, can credibly offer this on its own. It's time for political leaders to catch up with reality," she said in an address to the Cape Town Press Club.
Zille has called on "constitutionalists", who adhere to and promote the constitution, within the ANC and in other political parties to "take the plunge" and move out of their comfort zones into a new political formation.
Political analyst Dr Mcebisi Ndletyana said the country needed another party which could take on the ANC so that the parties could start competing in terms of performance to woo voters.
"This system of politics is necessary for good governance," he said.
"But the question is why is Zille calling for this?
"Is it because the DA is conceding that it cannot take on the ANC in its present configuration?
"Is it saying that all its reforms will not yield the desired results?
"The DA has done a lot, including electing black leaders, and has changed since Tony Leon's leadership to a more critical but supportive leadership style. Are these reforms not enough to make them popular in the black community?"
Ndletyana said the last merger between a white and black leader – the formation of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) – did not achieve the required results because there was no consistent leadership style.
"The idea is sound, but making it a reality will be a challenge, if past experiences are anything to go by.
"Leaders must be committed to the idea more than their own interests," he said.
COPE MP and Youth Movement president Nqaba Bhanga said COPE was not opposed to discussing cooperating with other political parties to challenge the ANC.
"We need an alternative government in South Africa and this can only be done through cooperation between opposition parties. We have already opened up discussions to identify which issues we agree on. We believe that this is the first step."
Bhanga said instability in the ANC would slowly lead to the country's collapse.
"This is the demand from the people. They want an alternative ruling party because the ANC is not taking the people seriously."
COPE councillor Mzwandile Hote said the ANC would not achieve good governance while its leaders were at loggerheads with each other and the party would continue to wane.
"While COPE has had hiccups of its own, and we need to discuss the way forward at our congress, we believe opposition parties joining to create a formidable force is not a bad idea at all," he said.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said he hoped Zille was not making these comments "on the spur of the moment".
He said she should rather approach other political parties instead of talking to the media.
Zille said the proposed new political party would be guided by four core values:
ıDefending the constitution;
ıGrowing a regulated, market-driven economy to achieve growth and reduce unemployment; and
ıBuilding a competent state that puts competence above loyalty and punishes corruption.
Commitment to these core values was non-negotiable, she said.
The new party would adopt the National Development Plan, which she said was similar to the DA's Growth and Jobs Plan, as its blueprint for governing and would work to implement its proposals.
"The political parties of the past [and present] are powerful brands, but today they serve to keep apart millions of people who really belong together.
"The next stop is to build a governing party that can make the [National Development] plan's efficient implementation its highest priority," she said.
Zille said the leadership battles in the ANC and its alliance partners had pitted the "constitutionalists" against populists who abused institutions of state to pursue narrow political agendas and saw the constitution as a barrier to their progress.
"The big question is: can a clean break happen in time so that the constitutionalists, wherever they currently find themselves, can build a new majority and implement a plan that defuses the time bomb of youth unemployment?"
Zille said she had spoken to various political figures in and outside the ANC about her proposal.
She said there were many who agreed with her view, but were afraid to move out of their comfort zones.
The DA, which runs the Western Cape and Cape Town, has been wooing smaller opposition parties to join it in its fight to reduce ANC dominance.
It concluded a merger with the Independent Democrats just before last year's elections, which resulted in a deal that saw ID leader Patricia de Lille taking over as mayor of Cape Town.
It has also been courting COPE with a view to initiating a similar merger, but that party's internal squabbles have prevented this from happening.