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Policy chief for South Africa's biggest opposition party quits

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The head of policy for South Africa’s largest opposition party has resigned, citing a lack of support from the leadership and exposing rifts in the build-up to elections.

Gwen Ngwenya said she would remain a lawmaker for the Democratic Alliance (DA), which is preparing to fight the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in the vote expected in May.

But she said she would leave the senior post, accusing the party of failing to stick to its convictions on affirmative action policies, and of not giving her policy unit enough funding.

The DA has criticised the ANC’s approach to Black Economic Empowerment, a policy designed to address South Africa’s racial disparities in wealth and opportunities which linger more than two decades after the end of apartheid.

But when Ngwenya said the DA was exploring policy alternatives in August last year, her position was contradicted by another senior member of the party.

“The bottom line is that I do not believe the DA takes policy seriously,” she said in her resignation letter.

The DA, which traditionally has a strong white support base, elected its first black leader Mmusi Maimane four years ago to widen its appeal among voters. It won control of three major cities in 2016.

But it now faces a resurgent ANC under President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has vowed to root out corruption and boost economic growth since replacing scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma in February last year.

The DA was embroiled in another internal dispute last year with former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille, who later left to form her own party. The DA accused de Lille of turning a blind eye towards corruption, but she denied that and challenged the party’s efforts to remove her in court.

The DA has acknowledged that the disagreement with de Lille damaged its reputation.

(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Heavens)

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