South Africa's Ramphele changes mind on opposition leadership role

CAPE TOWN Mon Feb 3, 2014 2:45am EST

Anti-apartheid activist Mamphela Ramphele speaks at a news conference in Cape Town, January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Anti-apartheid activist Mamphela Ramphele speaks at a news conference in Cape Town, January 28, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Hutchings

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CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Anti-apartheid activist Mamphela Ramphele will not run as the Democratic Alliance's presidential candidate in this year's election, South Africa's main opposition party said on Monday, a blow to hopes a prominent leader would spur its challenge to the ruling ANC.

Helen Zille, DA leader, said Ramphele had changed her mind after agreeing last week to join the opposition party which prompted criticism and accusations she was jumping on a political bandwagon.

"By going back on the deal, again, just five days after it was announced, Dr Ramphele has demonstrated - once and for all - that she cannot be trusted to see any project through to its conclusion," said Zille, also a long-time friend.

Ramphele, a medical doctor and former World Bank managing director, told a news conference on Monday she had rushed into the decision to join the DA.

"The time for this was not right."

Ramphele is already leader of her year-old Agang political party, which has struggled to gain traction despite growing dissatisfaction among voters with President Jacob Zuma's ANC, in power since the end of white-minority rule in 1994.

The ANC is expected to easily win this year's general election despite dwindling support in Africa's largest economy, where senior government officials have been implicated in corruption.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf, editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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