S.Africa opposition nets ANC defector

Wednesday November 14 2012



South Africa's main opposition party scored a significant political victory on Tuesday, winning the support of a former senior member of the ruling African National Congress.

The Democratic Alliance announced the defection of Nosimo Balindlela, the former head of the Eastern Cape's provincial government -- an ANC stronghold and the home of Nelson Mandela.

"I have taken this step because I do believe the DA is the future," Balindlela told reporters.

Evoking the names of ANC giants Oliver Tambo and Mandela, she told journalists that South Africa was not the country they had imagined.

"This is not what they wanted us to be. They wanted to make sure that racism is finished in South Africa and it is very sad that we are still on that tag of racism."

While Balindlela is no longer considered a major player in South African politics and quit the ANC four years ago, her defection will be a blow to the already underfire party.

It will also provide a boost to the Democratic Alliance, which has struggled to win over enough black voters to seriously challenge the ANC on the national stage.

"Many of us understand that our future lies in transcending these obsolete political formations. But it takes a courageous person to be among the first to show the way to others," said DA leader Helen Zille.

The ANC downplayed Balindlela's importance, saying she was a "political liability" whose ineffectiveness led to her being fired as provincial leader.

"It is typical of the DA to use cheap propaganda to create hype over nothing," the party said.

Balindlela was pushed from her post as Eastern Cape leader in 2008 after her province opposed Jacob Zuma's successful bid to oust Thabo Mbeki from the presidency.

She later joined the Congress of the People that split from the ANC four years ago.

"She certainly doesn't have the name cache that would be necessary to be a really significant individual gain for the DA," said analyst Daniel Silke.

However, her being a former high ranking black woman was in the party's favour.

"The move by a formerly prominent ANC black woman into the DA does to some degree offset the criticism of the DA, often from the ANC, that it simply represents minority interests and cannot attract black support," he said.