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Agang leader Mamphela Ramphele has announced two high-profile additions to her staff - veteran journalist Thabo Leshilo and Absa banking executive Nkosinathi Solomon.
Ramphele, who intends launching a political party in June out of her million signatures campaign, announced this week that Solomon would be the party’s campaign director and Leshilo would head communications.
Leshilo previously held key editorial positions at Business Report, as well as serving as editor at the Pretoria News, Sunday World, Business Times and Sowetan.
In 2008 he was awarded the Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University, and on his return was appointed the first public editor of Avusa’s (now the Times Media Group’s) eight newspapers.
Agang political and policy director Mills Soko said Leshilo, who begins at Agang tomorrow, had been given “carte blanche to define his role as he sees fit”, as well as freedom to make appointments.
Soko said his expertise went beyond “the sophisticated world of the media sector” and the audiences it already served in metropolitan areas, but also “the role” it should play for “broader sectors of society beyond Sandton” including townships and rural areas.
He said Leshilo would help Agang hone its communication strategy so it spoke to people of different social and political contexts.
Campaign director Solomon had benefited from his time at BP and Chevron, which required him to oversee relationships with governments in Africa, resulting in experience with government agencies, trade unions, NGOs and regulators, Soko said.
“(Solomon) comes from the private sector but he has a very keen political acumen. He is a rare business type in that he is a political animal,” he said.
This would enable Solomon to build Agang into a “formidable machine” which was “efficient, effective and responsive”.
He said Agang’s campaign strategy would be developed by the full team - including Soko, Ramphele and others - but that Solomon would oversee its implementation.
Solomon’s “very big understanding” of the business community would also be of use as this was a “very important constituency” for Agang, Soko said, adding that Ramphele’s business background would be employed for these purposes as well.
Leshilo said his new position represented a return to politics for him.
Having been a Black Consciousness “student activist” at the University of the North, Turfloop campus (now the University of Limpopo), Leshilo said he was supposed to leave South Africa for military training but when there was a “passport glitch” he decided to stay in the country and become a journalist.
“When I heard Ramphele speak, she spoke directly to me. And I knew that I had to be part of her dream of ensuring electoral reforms and accountability in our politics. I decided to throw my weight behind AgangSA,” he said.
Soko said Agang would soon announce further senior appointments, but he would not be drawn on details.
He denied that prominent gender activist Nomboniso Gasa was a member of Agang’s staff, and said the platform obtained most of its funding from “domestic sources”, and a smaller proportion came from “friends of South Africa” based abroad who donated money as individuals. - Sunday Argus