Zille: We made a mistake

Helen Zille says the DA is going to cut its losses and move forward.

DA leader Helen Zille. Picture: Stephen Phillipson/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille says AgangSA leader Mamphela Ramphele has shown a lack of integrity after she reneged on her agreement to be the main opposition's presidential candidate.

In a bold move last week, Ramphele accepted the DA's offer to stand as its choice for the top job in government last week, but the deal is now off.

Zille says Ramphele agreed to join the DA and incorporate Agang branches, members and volunteers into the DA and then reneged on the agreement yesterday.

She also says she and Ramphele had been in talks about the possibility of her joining the DA for the past three and a half years.

Zille admitted the party made a mistake inviting Ramphele to be its presidential candidate but says it is going to cut its losses and move forward.

She says sometimes in politics you have to take a risk.

"Sometimes a risk works, and sometimes it doesn't but as you also learn in politics success is never permanent and a mistake is very rarely fatal."

Zille says the partnership was a genuine attempt on the DA's part to "bring together a strong and united opposition force that could build an alternative government for South Africa."

She says she started worrying that the partnership would be problematic shortly before the public announcement on Tuesday morning.

"We had two clear and agreed press statements the previous evening. The next morning, Dr Ramphele wanted to rewrite her press statement saying that in a unique South African innovation she would remain the leader of AgangSA and become the DA's presidential candidate- that never featured once in any of our discussions."

Zille says when she realised Ramphele had backtracked, she suggested they cancel the press briefing but Ramphele insisted it continue.

Zille says Ramphele "put on a lot of pressure" to make the move.

She says she thought the partnership made a lot of sense.

"In order to serve the voters, this was a genuinely good faith attempt to realign politics and to bring opposition parties together."

She dismissed allegations that the partnership was made solely because Ramphele was black.

"We can't say race doesn't matter and is irrelevant. If she had only been black and none of the rest of the many attributes I have come to know in her, she wouldn't be under consideration. It was the combination that was important."

She said their personal friendship has "taken a very bad knock."

The DA says it's not clear who will now be their presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, Ramphele has admitted she rushed into her agreement with the DA.

Speaking at a briefing earlier today, she labelled last week's briefing as a "premature announcement" which resulted in unhappiness among both DA and Agang members.

Ramphele says Agang remains a viable opposition to the ANC which she says has failed the country and does not serve the people.