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S. Africa's Old Foes Unite in Coalition

Politics: The ex-party of apartheid forms alliance with the ruling African National Congress, which led the fight against whites-only rule.

November 28, 2001|From Associated Press

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Two South African political parties that were sworn enemies over apartheid announced an alliance Tuesday that would have been unthinkable under whites-only rule.

The New National Party, heir to the party that instituted apartheid, has joined forces with the ruling African National Congress, which came to power in 1994 after waging an armed struggle to overthrow the racist apartheid regime.

The parties said that their agreement paved the way for reconciliation among South Africans of all colors.

The coalition lays the groundwork for the predominantly white New National Party to gain seats in national, provincial and local governments. The party has 28 seats in the 400-member Parliament, and its influence has been waning.

The new coalition may also be able to take control of the council that rules Cape Town, the country's second-largest city.

"This is a historic agreement and is based on trust, said Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the New National Party's leader. "It provides us with a key to reshaping the political landscape and . . . breaking down the old racial divisions."

The New National Party had been allied with the Democratic Party in the Democratic Alliance, but the merger recently fell apart.

The Democratic Alliance--the country's main political opposition--criticized the new merger, saying it simply meant that the New National Party had been swallowed by the ANC.

"What the NNP has done can only be described as a monumental betrayal of its mandate and its voters," Wetshotsile Joe Seremane, the Democratic Alliance chairman, said in a statement.

Safety and Security Minister Steve Tshwete, a senior ANC member, defended the alliance, saying his party had a "closer affinity" with the New National Party than with any other party in the Parliament.

The ANC and the National Party, the predecessor of the New National Party, worked together once before in a constitutionally mandated government of national unity after 1994.

That collaboration was an uneasy partnership aimed at smoothing the country's transition to democracy.

The National Party withdrew from the government after a new constitution was enacted.

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