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Ramaphosa can’t change ANC alone: Biko

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ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. File image: Sibusiso Ndlovu

Cape Town - ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa will not succeed single-handedly in changing the party, Hlumelo Biko, the son of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko, predicted on Friday.

“That party is a very difficult party for one person to impact and I think that the constituency he brings is not as strong as many people around here would like it to be,” he told the Cape Town Press Club.

“I think he will have a very difficult time making the ANC into the image that he has. So I think that there is this collective leadership dynamic that will drown out the voice of a single individual.”

Biko, an investment banker and also the son of Mamphela Ramphele, said he believed that President Jacob Zuma played identity politics and that this had lowered the tone of the public and party discourse.

He referred to the tendency as “othering” those who did not subscribe to the dominant political view in a bid to marginalise them, and said he believed it shamed ANC veterans like Ramaphosa and National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel.

“I think that identity politics is assumed as normal, and it is actually not something that people in the ANC are shocked about when they hear some of their leaders describe people as 'un-African'.

“I think our president has participated in that and I don't think it is useful for anybody, even within the ANC. I think people who are good inside the ANC find themselves cowering down to some of these levels, and I am not envious of people like Cyril and Trevor who have to function within that construct.”

Biko is currently promoting his book, The Great African Society.

It is critical of current economic empowerment policies and argues instead for redistribution managed, in part, by the private sector directly and for change in the education system.

Biko said the book was completed last year and it was coincidence that it was published at the same time that Ramphele launched her new political party initiative.

But he added that their political thinking was largely similar.

“I can confirm that I am my mother's son,” he said.

“I can confirm that she brought me up and therefore many ideas in the book are shared.

“I am not sure which of those ideas in the book she is going to take. It is probably better to read her book.

“In terms of her party and the manifesto it is going to take, I really can't answer the question because I think it is too early.”

Biko said his book offered a “not perfect” modern-day definition of Black Consciousness because he believed the philosophy was valid but its proponents had failed to update it.

“There are... 1/8many 3/8 members of what was BC that still sit in the NEC (national executive committee) of the ANC, that still sit in the main leadership of many other parties, and those people have been irreversibly impacted by the philosophy that focused on the need to approach human interactions from a basis of equality.”

Biko said he regretted that money had become a yardstick of human worth in post-apartheid South Africa.

“I think what those people haven't done is translate that philosophy for today as it pertains to people feeling that wealth is a pre-qualifier for an increased amount of human dignity.

“And therefore if they engage with people who are wealthier than they (are) that they don't feel that they are on an equal footing.

“I think what needs to happen with Black Consciousness is that it needs to be updated to talk about today('s) trends and obviously a lot of people who were proponents of that have spent their time out of intellectual rigour, and spent too much time in politics or business.” - Sapa


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