South Africa's Congress of the People
(COPE) is spearheading talks with other opposition parties to challenge the
ruling African National Congress (ANC) in the 2011 local elections.
eight parties are reportedly part of the ongoing talks that could lead to a
But they face a herculean task because the ruling ANC
enjoys an overwhelming majority among ordinary South Africans.
COPE was formed
last year by disgruntled ANC members, but it performed well below expectations
in the recent general election.
Mbhazima Sam Shilowa, first Deputy President of COPE said that
there are strong indications of a viable main opposition in South Africa.
Congress of the People (COPE) is in a discussion with other political parties
in opposition to ask the question, do we think we are in a position to
cooperate first inside parliament, secondly outside of parliament and on what
He said there is a common
understanding among the opposition parties.
"It would appear that almost
everyone agrees that there are areas around which we can agree and cooperate in
parliament. We now have to look at which other areas outside of parliament," he
Shilowa said there is need
for unity among the opposition parties.
"From the Congress of the
People point of view, the motivation is because it is important for all
opposition parties to unite so that you can be able to offer an alternative to
South Africans rather than offer them multiple alternatives," Shilowa said.
He said the proposed
opposition would be formidable against the ruling ANC.
"It is less about what do we
disagree with, with the ANC, but more what do we agree together in the sense of
the constitution of our democracy, policy issues and all of that," he said.
Shilowa agreed that the
parties face enormous challenges in their effort to find solutions to their
varying divergent views.
"It is not going to be easy
finalizing them, but we believe that these are areas which all of us must purse
and pursue directly," Shilowa said.
He said South Africans have
to decide on the number of opposition parties.
"It is important for South
Africans to ask themselves a question, do we want to look at following
multi-parties of opposition parties or do we want to follow a unified
opposition party? He asked.
Shilowa said a unified
opposition would be tough to defeat in future elections.
"We know that it doesn't
follow that everyone who voted for the opposition vote for us because of what
they think of the ANC. But we think if we are able to put forward a unified
position of purpose and what we stand for, we may be able to get as many people
as is possible on our side and therefore offer an alternative against the ANC,"
He said the opposition
parties are working on their differences in anticipation of forming an alliance
to contest future elections.
Political observers however
believe the opposition parties want to capitalize on the frustration of the
ordinary South Africans about inadequate services such as electricity,
education, crime and health.