Activist Mamphela Ramphele’s new party is poised to go toe to toe with the DA as they both target the same black urban middle-class vote they hope will be alienated enough to reject the ANC under President Jacob Zuma.
Relations between Ramphele and the DA are becoming more frayed as it dawns on the official opposition that the new party could threaten its long-term goal of attracting better-educated, urban-based blacks. While Ramphele insists on being coy, saying that she will announce her plans soon, DA leader Helen Zille told The Sunday Independent that Ramphele would not be joining the DA nor would the opposition change into a new recalibrated party under Ramphele’s lead.
Asked if Ramphele would be joining her or whether Zille would join the new party, Zille replied: “Neither of the above.”
DA deputy federal chairman Mmusi Maimane concurred. He said the DA at no point discussed Ramphele being parachuted into the party as leader or that it (DA) was considering joining forces with her under a new entity.
“This would have had to be tabled at our federal congress last year, or our federal council meeting which is sitting today (Saturday) and it is not on the agenda. So, no on both scores,” he said.
Zille initially said: “Everything is speculative at present. I am still waiting till Dr R (Ramphele) makes her announcement.” Zille was responding to questions about whether the DA was nervous about Ramphele’s entry into active politics as well as whether the DA ever considered approaching her to join its leadership. Zille and Ramphele have tried to position themselves as a credible alternative to the ANC.
The DA’s comments end weeks of speculation about the possibility of a refashioned opposition landscape that could have seen the birth of a party that would draw on the DA’s party infrastructure in minority communities as well as the political gravitas and standing of leading lights in the black intelligentsia who reportedly supported Ramphele and whom she would deliver to the new outfit. South Africans go to the polls early next year.
But several prominent black intellectuals such as Sipho Pityana, his brother Barney Pityana and commentator Moeletsi Mbeki told The Sunday Independent that they had not been approached by nor would they join Ramphele’s political party. The only person taking the fifth on possible ties with Ramphele’s party was former Cosatu general secretary Jay Naidoo.
He said he would comment “only after Ramphele has made her announcement”.
Sipho Pityana, who heads the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac), a pressure group, said while he was unsurprised that he was being linked with Ramphele’s initiative because she served on the Casac board, he had no intentions of leaving the ANC.
“I have not been invited nor do I intend to join her political party. If she is speaking to Black Consciousness comrades, and that is the orientation of the party, I have never been BC. I am a member of the ANC. I am an ANC activist, I have never left the ANC. I am concerned about some developments in the ANC but I am not leaving.”
He said while there was space for a new political party, any plans by Ramphele to link up with the DA would make many black professionals who are unhappy with the ANC “deeply uncomfortable”. He supports strong civic action to hold the government to account.
Academic and former leading light in the Black Consciousness movement Barney Pityana - whom knows Ramphele well - said: “I can’t join a party that I don’t know anything about. I am not a joiner.” He also said that he has not been “in touch” with Ramphele and that she had not “taken me into her confidence” about starting a political party. Pityana rejected claims that he was behind the registering of the mysterious new political party called the South African National Congress (SANC), which was gazetted last year.
The ANC raised a complaint with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) when reports emerged that the SANC was gazetted.
The ruling party said it would challenge any group who wanted to use part of its name. The IEC told The Sunday Independent that it had not received any application from the SANC or Ramphele.
Mbeki, one of the ANC’s fiercest critics, said the new party placed “too much emphasis on Mamphela” and that he had not seen “a programme”.
“I still haven’t resigned from the ANC, although my membership might have lapsed. I come from a very left-wing family and while there is a difference between the party one joins and who one can vote for, I don’t know what this party would stand for.”
Mbeki and Sipho Pityana agreed that while there was space for a new formation, it would be better if that came from the left of the ANC.
ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said the party was not fazed by Ramphele’s entry into politics and was confident that the new party would shave off votes from the opposition and not dent the ANC’s hold on the voters.
“Good luck to her. There is enough space in the right wing. While her programme is unclear, we do know she does not intend to represent the interests of the working class or the poor.” - Sunday Independent