A meeting of the New National Party's (NNP) Federal Council on Saturday proposed members join the ANC, but retain their party membership, parliamentary and local government seats as a special transitional arrangement until September 2005.

"Individual members of the NNP would be encouraged to join the ANC in their respective localities. The NNP will in future contest elections under the banner of the ANC," the former pro-apartheid party said.

The NNP is all that remains of the once mighty National Party, which came to power in 1948 and hardened already discriminatory laws under a system of racial segregation known as apartheid, a word meaning separation or being separate - only to dismantle them in the face of global political and economic pressure.

Conciliatory move


The NNP, rebranded from the National Party in 1997, was virtually wiped out in April elections with less than 2% of the vote, while the ANC won a commanding two-thirds majority.

"Individual members of the NNP would be encouraged to join the ANC in their respective localities. The NNP will in future contest elections under the banner of the ANC"

New National Party statement

The NNP and the ANC already had a cooperation agreement, and NNP leaders admitted that that contributed to the party's dim showing in the April elections.

But in a conciliatory move, President Thabo Mbeki put NNP leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk in his cabinet in charge of environmental affairs and tourism.

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