FF members defect to CP

2003-03-27 22:42

Pretoria - Nine more Freedom Front members have defected to the Conservative Party, CP leader Ferdi Hartzenberg said on Thursday.

He said they mostly held leading positions on regional or branch level in FF in Gauteng.

The defections follow that of former FF Gauteng legislative member Joseph Chiole. He joined the CP last week, making use of a window period that allows elected politicians to swap parties without losing their seats.

More FF members might follow suit, Hartzenberg told reporters in Pretoria.

The new members include academic Willie Botha, who served as FF MP in the 1990s.

Hartzenberg said the defections coincided with a new resolve in his party to unite what he described as Afrikaners around the idea of self-determination.

The CP had also changed its stance of the past 11 years to stay out of general elections.

"We have been in the background for the past few years to work for bringing our people together. But one can't keep on telling your own members to vote for another party," Hartzenberg said.

Not taking part in elections was like a hunger strike.

"If you maintain your hunger strike for too long, you die."

The CP would seek to have a bill of ethnic group rights written into the Constitution.

"This should provide for a fourth tier of government. Powers should be devolved to groups, allowing them to decide over matters such as their own education," Hartzenberg said.

Afrikaners 'coming together'

"Afrikaners comprise about seven percent of the population, but they have no decision-making rights. This should be rectified."

The objective was to get the support of other political parties for the idea.

"We must get the majority of our people to support the notion of minority rights," Hartzenberg said.

"Recognising minority rights would help prevent of a repeat of Zimbabwe, where the government had to resort to creating chaos to remain in power."

Expressing confidence that the CP would succeed in its quest, Hartzenberg said: "We feel Afrikaners are beginning to come together again."

Chiole, who also attended the briefing, said he left the FF partly because he was dissatisfied with what he labelled the political morality of that party.

"The leadership also had a dictatorial style that I found unacceptable."

Chiole said he knew of at least 20 provincial committee members in the FF who had resigned. It was not yet clear whether they would also join the CP.

"But one could describe this as a small split in the FF," he said.