WEARING a blue DA T-shirt, Nqaba Bhanga said the decision to cross the floor to the official opposition was not about him but for the people of South Africa.
The former ANC member-turned-COPE MP was introduced yesterday as the DA’s newest recruit to hundreds of members in Nangoza Jebe Hall in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth.
Eastern Cape DA leader Athol Trollip also named Bhanga, 36, as the party’s new Ngqura constituency leader.
Addressing the gathering, Bhanga said joining the DA was not an easy decision.
“From liberation politics to another party and to another party, you must understand that things are going to be said about you.
“But in politics we have choices to make. It was not an easy decision but it was a necessary decision for the people of South Africa. In all African countries’ liberation movements people are … told not to think differently.
“You are told in Africa if you do not vote for the party of liberation you are a sellout. It happened in Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola. Where are those countries today?
“We are told in South Africa if you do not vote for the party of Mandela, you are a sellout,” he said.
Asked if he had resigned as a COPE MP, Bhanga said there were still processes to be followed.
Bhanga said him joining the DA was proof that the party was not only for white people, as it had been labelled.
“Our country, because of the language of the ruling party, has become a sectorial country where people are divided on the basis of how 100% Zulu you are, how 100% Xhosa you are, how 100% Venda you are, how 100% white you are and how 100% Afrikaner you are.
“[Anti-apartheid activists] Nelson Mandela, Beyers Naude, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Helen Suzman and many other good South Africans fought for a better South Africa – a South Africa of equal opportunities for everyone.
“It is for that reason that I decided I must be part of the Democratic Alliance. We might not finish the fight . . . because it might be a long walk to freedom,” he said.
Bhanga is a former Congress of SA Students leader, Nelson Mandela Bay ANC Youth League deputy chairman, South African Students’ Congress general secretary and COPE Youth leader.
COPE national spokesman Johan Abrie called Bhanga an opportunist.
But Bhanga said: “If joining the party that seeks to provide good governance to our people is opportunism, then I am an opportunist. In politics there will always be critics, but critics build you.
“We’re here today to say we are going to walk in the streets with blue T-shirts with no fear. We must not be intimidated and be scared.
“We want to occupy the centre space in South African politics. This battle will start now,” he said.
Trollip said: “I listened to a lot of speeches in parliament – some good and some really bad. But what struck me about Nqaba Bhanga [is] every time he spoke … people were quiet. If people are quiet, they want to hear what you have to say.
“He is someone with backbone and is brave, and that is why he is sitting here today.”
The Ngqura constituency that Bhanga will lead comprises Motherwell, New Brighton, Kwazakhele, KwaMagxaki, KwaNoxolo, Zwide and Bluewater Bay.