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Mbeki Hails Ex-Apatheid Party's Demise
August 10, 2004

L'Express (Port Louis)

August 10, 2004
Posted to the web August 10, 2004

Port Louis

Thabo Mbeki said that he was surprised by the NNP's decision to join the ANC.

South African President Thabo Mbeki has hailed the disbanding of the political party that introduced apartheid and enforced racial segregation for 50 years as a historic move, national radio reported on Sunday.

The New National Party (NNP), rebranded from the National Party in 1997, announced on Saturday that it had decided to merge with the ruling African National Congress (ANC), the party it once banned and whose leaders it imprisoned.

"When I saw this, I couldn't think of a similar occasion anywhere in the world where a party of oppression ... that had tried as hard as it could to defeat a movement of liberation ... said 'We are defeated, we cease to exist, we join those that we had oppressed,'" Mbeki said at a Women's Day function.

Formed in 1914, the party banned liberation movements including the ANC and jailed hundreds of political leaders and activists, among them Nelson Mandela, during its rule.

The NNP is all that remains of the National Party, which came to power in 1948 and hardened already discriminatory laws under the apartheid system of racial segregation, only to dismantle them after global political and economic pressure.

The NNP was all but wiped out in April polls with less than 2 percent of the vote while the ANC won a two-thirds majority.

Some political parties have criticised the NNP's impending merger with the ANC, saying that South Africa is under threat of becoming a one party state. NNP leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk, who is in charge of environmental affairs and tourism in Mbeki's cabinet, came under fire from the opposition.

"This has nothing to do with political principle. Mr van Schalkwyk destroyed his party and abandoned his voters in return for a cabinet position," said Helen Zille, spokeswoman for the opposition Democratic Party. The South African Press Association quoted a pro-Afrikaner party as describing the move as an embarrassment.

"Not one of the founding members of the National Party in 1914 or any of the party's previous leaders could have predicted that the party would be destroyed in such a tragic and dishonourable way by being swallowed up by the ANC," said Pieter Mulder, leader of the small Freedom Front Plus.

South Africa's first free elections in 1994 were won by the ANC and Mandela, icon of the anti-apartheid struggle, was elected as the country's first black president


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