Has Mamphela Ramphele betrayed her supporters?
About 18 months ago I had a poll on this blog and asked readers who they would like to see as President of South Africa, and 80% of them voted for Mamphela Ramphele.
It did not seem likely then, as she didn’t seem to be the kind of person who had time for the political wheeling and dealing needed to get to be President of the ANC, which was the only way to become president opf the country. But then she started her own party, Agang, and that seemed to offer at least the opportunity of getting her into parliament.
One-woman parties don’t have a good record of gaining power in South African politics, but when their leaders got elected they did say things that no one else in parliament was saying, and that needed to be said — Helen Suzman and Patricia de Lille, for example. Mamphela Ramphele, unlike most of our politicians, seemed at least to have some vision.
So I was seriously thinking of voting for Agang in the next election.
Then came the news that Mamphela Ramphele had decided to throw in her lot with the Democratic Alliance, and I suppose that leaves me with little option but to vote for Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
And, according to this articled, I’m not alone in feeling this way: Agang members doubtful about DA vote | News24:
Johannesburg – Supporters of Agang SA leader Mamphela Ramphele were doubtful on Tuesday about voting for the DA, following the announcement that she was the party’s presidential candidate.
“As much as I want Mamphela to be president I don’t think I can get her there by voting DA,” said Agang SA supporter Tlaleng Maseko, of Johannesburg.
“I am at this stage yet to reconcile with myself on where my vote will go, but I will vote.”
DA leader Helen Zille announced on Tuesday that Ramphele would be the party’s presidential candidate in the upcoming general elections.
She said talks between Agang SA and the DA had been going on “continuously”.
“We have an agreement politically, we just need the technical details worked out”
As one of the people I fiollow on Twitter, @StephenMurray noted: “My white friends are posting DAgang celebration messages. My black friends are wondering if Biko is rolling in his grave
Perhaps there are many different worlds, and whether they can communicate with each other, I don’t know. All I can say here is how it looks to me.
I thought Mamphela Ramphele was someone with vision and integrity, and that by joining the DA, a party with a very chequered history, she has compromised both.
If she were elected to parliament as the leader of a party, no matter how small, whose policy was largely shaped by her vision, she could express independent views and bring fresh ways of seeing things. Now she has joined a party whose policy she has had no part in shaping, and if she is elected to parliament, she will need to follow that party’s line. So the move looks a bit opportunistic to me, and that does not say much for political integrity.
And the Democratic Alliance is also much too opportunistic for me. They recently tried to cash in on the death of Nelson Mandela, and tried to claim that they represented his ideals. But let us not forget that their immediate predecessor in that chequered history of theirs, the Democratic Party, at the end of Nelson Mandela’s only term as president, appealed to the electorate who were “Gatvol” and urged them to vote for the DP to “fight back” against Nelson Mandela’s ideals.
The DA also likes to claim that “we fought apartheid too”, but conveniently forget that because of their composite nature, they were also the party that brought us apartheid, because the DA was formed by the alliance of the Democratic Party and the rump of the National Party that brought apartheid into being. So part of that chequered history is that some of the DA’s predecessors fought apartheid, but others of them introduced it in the first place. Yes, one of their predecessor parties, the Progressive Party, symbolised by Helen Suzman, for a long time its only MP, did fight against apartheid, but a more recent leader, Tony Leon, led the “fight back” against democracy, which tends to cancel it out.
In the 2009 election many had great hopes for COPE, the Congress of the People Party, but it has wasted most of its energy ever since in internal leadership squabbles. For the 2009 election they brought in a neutral candidate, Mvume Dandala, but he failed to stop the fighting and COPE fell apart. And I wonder if Mamphela Ramphele will perhaps turn out to be the DA’s Mvume Dandala — brought in at the last minute to a party whose policy she did not help to shape. Only time will tell.
All I can say is that her joining the DA has not made me think any better of the DA, and has made me think a lot worse of her. And if the article quoted above is anything to go by, quite a lot of Agang supporters feel the same way. She raised their hopes and dashed them. So I, for one, do think she betrayed her supporters.