The former head of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and prominent anti-apartheid activist, Allan Boesak, has joined the newly-launched Congress of the People, South Africa's newest political party - writes Munyaradzi Makoni.
Boesak, who once led the South Africa's ruling African National Congress in the Western Cape province, announced his decision to join the party at the final session of Cope's 14-16 December founding conference in Bloemfontein, the capital of the Orange Free State province.
"Cope must be the new vision for South Africans to build a new home for all," Boesak told supporters at the Bloemfontein conference, the Mail and Guardian newspaper reported on its Web site (www.mg.co.za).
The cleric becomes the latest high-profile personality to join the party, which was formed after top party leaders defected from the ANC in protest at the manner of the ousting of former president Thabo Mbeki. Boesak said he was unable to continue to defend the ANC in public.
"Our hopes have not been answered, our dreams were trampled upon, our yearning for justice has not been fulfilled. We still don't have a unified country. Our ideals have been replaced by disillusionment," he stated.
A day before the conference, Boesak had said through his assistant only that he had been invited to the congress by Cope's leadership and was "in discussions".
Boesak's involvement is seen as helping Cope secure the votes of mixed race people who in South Africa are called coloured people and whose votes are important in the Western Cape, thereby giving the party a boost in national and provincial elections scheduled for 2009.
The former anti-apartheid activist had previously stated he would not join Cope, but he had also indicated he would consider joining a party that functioned on social democratic lines.
Boesak rose to prominence in the 1980s as a cleric and a leader of the anti-apartheid United Democratic Front. In 2000 he served a jail term when he was convicted of fraud and theft of donor funds.
He was readmitted to church ministry in 2005 after being pardoned by then president Mbeki.
In October 2008 Boesak said he was resigning his positions in the Uniting Reformed Church, accusing his denomination of discriminating against homosexuals.
In July, while delivering the fifth Ashley Kriel memorial lecture to honour an activist killed in the apartheid era, Boesak warned of a new form of "racial exclusion" in South Africa.
He said, "The ANC has succumbed to the subtle, but pernicious temptations of ethnic thinking, has brought back the language of ethnicity into the speech of the movement and has as government brought back the hated system of racial categorisation."
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]