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Archive for the tag “Mamphela Ramphele”

Mamphela Ramphele lets her supporters down again

A few months ago I noted that Mamphela Ramphele had let down her supporters by seeking an alliance with the DA.

Now she’s done it again. Ramphele to ‘take a break from politics’ | Politics | BDlive:

In a letter published on Agang’s website, Dr Ramphele, who founded Agang in 2013, said she would be handing over the Parliamentary reins to the party’s national youth forum co-ordinator Nyameka Mguzulo and chairman Mike Tshishonga.

I suspect that many of those who voted for Agang in the general election last week did so because they wanted Mamphela Ramphele’s voice to be heard in parliament, and would not have been too disappointed that Agang won only two seats, in parliament, provided that one of them would be occupied by the party leader.

Mamphela Ramphele, founder and leader of Agang

Mamphela Ramphele, founder and leader of Agang

Agang was too new for many people to vote for the party on it’s policies or its record. Few people knew anything about it apart from the public utterances of its leader. If Mamphela Ramphele had gone to parliament and played a useful role there, perhaps Agang might gain more support at the next election, but without Ramphele in parliament it will probably disappear more quickly than Cope.

South Africa (and probably many other countries) has had no shortage of leaders, like Jacob Zuma and P.W. Botha, who are adept at political wheeling and dealing, but have no vision of where they want the country to go. It seems that Mamphela Ramphele is at the opposite extreme — plenty of vision, and seeing what is wrong, but totally lacking in the kind of common sense needed in practical politics. Somewhere there must be a golden mean between the wheeler dealers and the impractical idealists, but Mamphela Ramphele evidently isn’t it.

It’s a pity, really.

When she was Principal of the University of Cape town she had some pretty good things to say about education policy. Saying them in parliament, not just in debates, but in committees etc, could have had a beneficial influence 9n education in the country.

I also suspect that, in addition to those who thought she said things that needed to be heard by those in government, she may also have drawn some of the residual Black Consciousness votes that might otherwise have gone to Azapo. Historians may argue about the role that Black Consciousness played in our history, but there can be no doubt that it did play a role, and perhaps its voice still needs to be heard, and Mamphela Ramphele could perhaps have been that voice too, but no, she’s pulling out.

Two very serious tactical errors in less than six months — I think her “break from politics” will be permanent.

The short-lived romance with the DA was disastrous, because I suspect that many people who were thinking of voting for Agang were thinking of doing so precisely because they did not want to vote for the DA (at that stage I was one of them).  They had second thoughts then, and Agang no longer seemed like a possibility even after the romance was broken off. I suspect that many of them voted for the EFF instead.

And now this.


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.

Mamphela Ramphele

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 #DifferentWorlds

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.


Agang lets us explain South African politics to Brits

The arrival of Agang on the South African scene at last lets us explain South African politics to Brits in terms they can understand.

  • The ANC is like the British Labour Party, having the support of Cosatu, one of the biggest trade union groupings.
  • The DA is like the British Conservative Party, and attracts the votes of conservative-minded voters in South Africa.
  • Agang is like the British Liberal Party, and appeals to liberals, though, unlike the British Liberal Party, it hasn’t sold out to the Tories yet.
  • Inkatha is like the Scottish National Party, and Bantu Holomisa’s lot (I forget their name) are like the Weslsh equivalent.
  • The Freedom Front is like the UK Independence Party.
  • That leaves the ACDP and the PAC which are rather difficult to explain in UK terms. Perhaps you could say that the PAC is also like the UKIP, except that it would like to be in Africa just as much as the UKIP doesn’t want to be in Europe.

I hope that makes everything clear.

Whenever I see Agang written I do a double take, because I tend to read it as “aging”.

Mamphela Ramphele

Mamphela Ramphele

But that’s OK, as it serves to remind aging liberals like me that we have something to vote for in the 2014 election, if we live that long.

Last year I was rooting for Mamphela Ramphele for president, and though she’s unlikely to be president in 2014, I think her voice needs to be heard in parliament.

Oh, I forgot Julius Malema.

Well, Julius Malema reminds me of Tielman Roos in a lot of ways. Appealing to the workers and playing the race card, for example.

You haven’t heard of Tielman Roos? Well, don’t worry — in 80 years’ time probably no one will have heard of Julius Malema either.


SABC – Agang may be used to destabilise SA: Mantashe:Tuesday 19 February 2013

Is this the first sign of Mugabeism in South Africa?

The African National Congress secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, says the newly-launched party political platform – Agang – might be an American initiative aimed at channelling money to destabilise the South African government. via SABC – Agang may be used to destabilise SA: Mantashe:Tuesday 19 February 2013.

This has been the technique used by the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe to try to discredit opposition parties. It was also the technique used by the apartheid regime to try to discredit opposition parties — including the ANC, only it saw the destabilisation coming from Moscow rather from the USA. It’s always “outside agitators”.

But what is destabilising South Africa is corruption in high places and the consequent failures in “service delivery”, and incidents like the Marikana massacre that show that the police are out of control.

There is no need for outside agitators to fan the flames of discontent. What needs to be done is to take a serious look at the causes of discontent, and try to remove them.

Mamphela Ramphele for president?

Three months ago I wrote a blog post in which I said that one of my political dreams was that I would like to see Mamphela Ramphele as president of South Africa before I die. I conducted a straw poll on that blog post, and 80% of those who responded said that they would also like to see her as president. Of course that doesn’t translate into 80% of South African voters, but it still indicated that some people would like to see her as president.

Mamphela Ramphele

Mamphela Ramphele

And now comes the news that she is possibly thinking of forming a political party, or movement, or think-tank or something, and that this something will be explained later today.

I look forward to it with a certain amount of trepidation.

I rather hope that she isn’t going to form a new party.

The record of new parties in South Africa is not very good, and among the new parties have been one-woman parties, and their record had not been any better than any of the others.

I voted for Patricia de Lille’s Independent Democrats in 2004 and 2009, and where are they today?

The problem with the ID was that through Patricia de Lille seemed to have a fresh approach, and a willingness to tackle the problems facing the country, and a real vision for the future, the party itself seemed to manage to attract only a bunch of mediocrities who, like people in other parties, were simply trying to fulfil their political ambitions. Quite a number deserted to join COPE, which seemed to have nothing at all to offer except leadership squabbles. Patricia de Lille left the PAC because it was led by cobweb-covered fuddy-duddies who lived in the past and had no vision for the future, but she didn’t attract enough dynamic leaders to make a new party flourish.  Can Mamphela Ramphele do any better?

Mamphela Ramphele, like Patricia de Lille, is attractive as a political leader because she tries to analyse problems and look for solutions instead of mouthing platitudes.

When I wrote the blog post saying my dream was to see her as president, it was before the ANC’s Mangaung conference in December, and my totally impractical what-if wish was based on the thought that the ANC might come to its senses and elect her as leader and as presidential candidate. Totally impractical, of course. And the precedents also don’t look good. I think Mamphela Ramphele as leader of the ANC would have faced the same problems as Mvume Dandala did as leader of Cope — presiding over a bunch of squabbling ambitious rivals bent on providing the media with an endless succession of personality clashes to distract attention from policy issues. As I said, I don’t think Mamphela Ramphele really has a taste for that, and lacks the moral turpitude that seems to be a prerequisite for the job. There are still good people in the ANC, people with good ideas who retain something of its former vision, but they have largely been sidelined or have sidelined themselves.

But there is a precedent of sorts. Frederik van Zyl Slabbert and Alex Boraine withdrew from politics to found IDASA, the Institute for Democracy in Southern Africa. IDASA has been a think-tank, and we probably don’t need another think tank. Perhaps what is needed is something between a think-tank and a political party — a bit less abstract than the former, and a bit more visionary than the latter.

Mamphela Ramphela is one of South Africa’s foremost public intellectuals, and it would be good if she could attract a number of others. But that is not enough. It also needs popular support. There is plenty of popular dissatisfaction with the status quo, and in the past organisations like the UDF and MDM effectively mobilised the dissatisfied into a popular movement. But a similar movement today would have a weapon that the UDF and MDM did not have back then — the vote.

Instead of service delivery protests, a new mass democratic movement could encourage people in municipalities plagued by corruption to organise their own local parties to elect their own local leaders to municipal councils and thus oust the corrupt ones. So perhaps what Mamphela Ramphele needs to do is to form not one new party, but dozens of new local ones, reviving the civic organisations of the past, and take back the cities, one by one. And the country would follow.


Political dreams

Now here’s a story that’s likely to have financial journalists and tenderpreneurs frothing at the mouth

Opinionated Vicar: Prophet of the Day: the President of Uruguay:

Think of a world leader, politician, or indeed anyone in power that you know, who gives away 90% of their income. Tricky. But there is one: But there is one: the President of Uruguay. He has personal wealth of just over £1000, which takes the form of an old VW Beetle, and living off 10% of his official salary means that his regular income is about the same as that of an average Uruguayan.

Look at the Uruguayan president’s house (his wife’s, actually) and compare it with Zumaville.

If there’s one thing that the “mainstream” media can’t stand, it’s a politician who isn’t on the make, and there are very few of those around. One of the few African politicians who was not on the make was Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, and the Western media published lots of denigratory articles about him. There was one syndicated article, with a title like The “teacher” who reduced his nation to beggary, which did the rounds for about 20 years, and was reprinted again and again. I saw it several times over the years in South African newspapers.

I have a dream that before I die I will see Mamphela Ramphele as the president of South Africa.

It’s not likely to happen, of course, because the way our political system is constructed anyone who now wants to get to that position has to be prepared to devote all their time to the political infighting and backstabbing that constitutes out political process. Mamphela Ramphele is one of South Africa’s South Africa’s foremost public intellectuals, and I doubt that she has the stomach for that kind of thing. Moral turpitude seems to be a requirement for the job.

But I’m not alone in having this dream; it is shared by at least one other person.

Of course it is too much to hope for that such dreams can be fulfilled twice in a lifetime.

It should have been enough that in 1994 South Africa gained its freedom and was liberated from the evil ideology of apartheid. Back in the bad old days the enemy was obvious, and the moral choices were clear. The country was in the grip of an evil dieology, and if we were to be liberated that grip must be broken.

But now there is no single source of evil that one can point to; it is just the usual messy mishmash of human sinfulnes, greed, lust for power, incompetence and corruption. In a sense South Africa has become normal. It is what most countries have to contend with, one way or another.

It reminds me of a song that we used to sing in the early 1970s, buy a little-known British gospel rock group called Parchment:

Yesterday’s dream didn’t quite come true
We fought for our freedom, and what did it do?
Now no one can see where they stand.

Let there be light in the land, let there be light in the people
Let there be God in our lives from now on.

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