Political commentators believe AgangSA’s chances of capturing a sizeable number of votes in the May 7 elections are nonexistent, despite a “populist” promise to make higher education free.
Independent analyst Dr Somadoda Fikeni said Agang was unlikely to be among the top three parties after the elections.
“I think (Agang leader Mamphela Ramphele) is going to be one of the marginal players,” said Fikeni.
Ramphele launched the party’s manifesto in Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria, on Saturday.
She said that if Agang won the election, higher education would be free for those willing to learn. “We have the resources for full-cost funding of higher education. Graduates would be asked to pay back their tuition in public service,” said Ramphele.
Fikeni said Ramphele’s promise of free higher education was likely to capture the attention of just a fraction of the youth.
He said the hope to attract the so-called born-frees was informed by the assumption that those born after the dawn of democracy in 1994 “were not bound by the liberation narratives”.
But Fikeni indicated that Ramphele was not well known among the youth.
“A survey… indicated that Ramphele’s struggle credentials and heritage don’t resonate with the youth. All they can remember about her is that she was a black businesswoman.”
He said Agang’s campaign lacked energy and strong branding. The party had been in the news mainly during its launch and when it emerged last year that its finances were in disarray, said Fikeni.
“The third news was the blunder that occurred when (Ramphele) tried to be presidential candidate for the DA, so she is struggling to make her presence felt.”
Fikeni added that Agang would gain traction only if something dramatic happened, such as major political players joining it ahead of the elections.
“But it also depends on other role-players, such as the ANC, DA and EFF, faltering, and then you would have an opportunity where Agang is entering that space, but right now it doesn’t look like that,” he said.
Another analyst, Ralph Mathekga, was critical of Ramphele’s promise of free higher education. “It’s just a populist attempt to increase her popularity.”
Mathekga said Agang would struggle to find its position within the opposition space. “Besides not being visible, bad publicity is worse. They need to do some groundwork.”
Ramphele also promised guaranteed protection for investors, secure borders and effective governance.
She said Agang would not try to create a single job or job opportunity because “governments cannot and should not try to create sustainable jobs”.
An Agang government would instead create conducive environments for job creation, she added.
“We will do this through empowering citizens with excellent education, providing skills and training, and creating opportunities for young people.”
Ramphele also told her supporters that citizens needed to become active and shape the country’s political future.
She projected Agang as the biblical David who defeated the mighty Goliath.
“We have started with a few, who are now many and will be many more,” she said.
“Agang is a fresh start that is deeply rooted in the struggle, yet unburdened by the baggage of the past.”
Ramphele claimed that her party had a sizeable following and was hoping to attract the votes of apathetic voters who had stayed away in past elections.
“We must believe that we have the power of the vote to change the government into one we can trust.”
The ‘five Es’ of party’s plan for SA
Agang SA tabled a five-point plan at the launch of its manifesto in Pretoria at the weekend.
The fledgling party says the country’s dreams rest on “five Es” - empowerment, education, entrepreneurship, employment and effective governance.
- White citizens will share their skills, expertise and wealth with black South Africans.
- Economic empowerment should go hand in hand with dignified human settlement.
- There can be no empowerment without education and skills development.
- Transfer state-owned land to address land needs for both rural and urban dwellers.
- Create better opportunities and access to public spaces and buildings for the disabled.
- Free higher education.
- Allowance for science and mathematics teachers in rural areas.
- Introduce a 50 percent minimum pass mark for all subjects at all grades.
- Link teachers’ pay increases and bonuses to competency and qualification.
- Eradicate mud schools.
- Reduce bureaucracy, stimulate entrepreneurship and provide finance if needed.
- Open South Africa to foreign entrepreneurs.
- Stop the harassment of micro-businesses and informal traders.
- Similar benefits and rights for both workers employed through labour brokers and directly employed workers.
- A single economic plan and link ministers’ salaries to the attainment of job-creation and economic-growth targets.
- Create an environment for job creation.
- Abolish sector education and training authorities and reintroduce industry colleges to train artisans.
- Establish skills-development programmes and fund on-the-job training for unemployed youth.
- State-owned enterprises to spend a fixed portion of their payroll on training and developing youth skills.
- Tough anti-competitive policies for cartels that stifle innovation and entrepreneurship.
- Private doctors to work in public clinics.
- Set a 15-year minimum jail sentence for corrupt public servants.
- Create a national register of public servants convicted of corruption.
- Pass a whistle-blower law that rewards and protects the honest.
- Demilitarise the police service.