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Monday, 29 October, 2001, 11:24 GMT
Opposition split boosts ANC
Peter Marais, Mayor of Cape Town
The opposition fell out over Cape Town's mayor
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party appears to have strengthened its dominant position in South African politics over the weekend after a split in the main opposition group.

The New National Party (NNP), the reincarnation of the National Party (NP), which was responsible for introducing and enforcing apartheid in post-war South Africa, suspended its participation from the Democratic Alliance on Friday.

The consequence of what Mr Van Schalkwyk is doing is to turn South Africa into a one-party state

Democratic Party leader Tony Leon
On Sunday it then announced it was looking into a possible alliance with President Thabo Mbeki's ANC, a party it once outlawed as a terrorist organisation.

This announcement came just hours after the ANC said it was considering changing the national constitution to allow elected representatives to move from one party to another without losing their seats.


NNP leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk said his party was interested in "co-operative government" with the ANC but was not seeking a merger.

ANC leader Thabo Mbeki
ANC leader Thabo Mbeki: Western Cape within his sights

South Africa's press is speculating that the NNP's leader could even be on the brink of a cabinet post.

The Alliance was formed just a year ago, in an attempt to strengthen opposition to the ANC, which has a comfortable majority in parliament and runs eight of the nine regional provinces.

But the NNP move could pave the way for the ANC to share power with them in the Western Cape, the only province not in its control.

The ANC and the NP under former President FW de Klerk were in a government of national unity between 1994 and 1996.

But the NNP, as it was renamed, suffered a devastating defeat in the second all-race elections in 1999 seeing its representation in parliament drop to 28 seats from 82.

The Democratic Party (DP) took over as the country's main opposition party, and last year the NNP agreed to form an alliance with them and a smaller party.

Cape town mayor

The breakup came after a clash over Cape Town mayor Peter Marais.

DP leader Tony Leon
DP leader Tony Leon: Called on the NNP's Cape Town mayor to resign

Mr Marais, who is popular among the mixed-race community, was forced out recently by the DP, over his role in a scandal involving the re-naming of Cape Town streets.

Mr Van Schalkwyk accused the DP and their leader Tony Leon of taking South Africa's white community "back to the old days of simply demonising black South Africans", in comments on South African television on Sunday.

Mr Leon accused Mr van Schalkwyk of undermining efforts to form a strong democratic opposition.

"The consequence of what Mr Van Schalkwyk is doing is to turn South Africa into a one-party state," Mr Leon said.

The DP has traditionally drawn much of its support from the English-speaking white community. The NNP has had strong support in the Afrikaner community and among Cape Town's one million strong coloured community.

See also:

17 Oct 01 | Africa
Name row rocks SA opposition
24 Jun 00 | Africa
Opposition unite to challenge ANC
13 Sep 00 | Africa
Cape Town mayor resigns over porn
18 Jun 01 | Africa
Timeline: South Africa
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: South Africa
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