The misadventures of Mamphela

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iol news pic iec agang 259 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Leader of Agang Mamphela Ramphele. Picture: Chris Collingridge

Jonathan Ancer asks, where did it all go wrong for the woman who has everything and was set to clean up at the polls?

 Cape Town - Enough is enough, she declared from her lofty perch on the pole. But “enough is enough” just wasn’t enough for Mamphela Ramphele and her crew of Agangsters.

 We witnessed her party’s birth, her shotgun wedding and swift divorce – now we’re seeing her political death.

 It seemed she had it all. Broad crossover appeal and credibility – she’s a struggle icon and a legend of the Black Consciousness Movement. She is a doctor and an intellectual with a string of academic achievements. She is scandal-free. She is a wealthy businesswoman in her own right. She’s even got a catchy name (it rhymes) and a winning smile. She hit the Twitter hard with almost 50 000 followers, trending on days when Oscar was in court.

 So, where did it all go wrong for the woman who has everything and was set to clean up at the polls?

 Let’s rewind to the beginning of last year when Ramphele announced that she was going to form a political party. There was razzmatazz as she presented herself as the country’s great hope who would deliver the people from the ANC, which, she said, had sold out the freedom dream.

 We held our breath. Was the political landscape about to change forever? Would she split the alliance and do what Cope couldn’t? We exhaled.

 It was a long case of “watch this space”.

 In the meantime, Julius Malema launched the EFF with its red beret army, fighting talk and anti JZ sound bites.

 When Ramphele eventually introduced Agang to the world a few months later the EFF had already nationalised the election thunder.

 Ramphele has everything… well, everything except timing, which, of course, is everything. Yes, everything, except timing and votes.

 She also doesn’t have a catchy party name. Let’s face it “Agang” doesn’t roll off the tongue. It gets lodged in your craw and scratches your throat. Say it too many times and you start coughing. Not like EFF, which is a subeditor’s wet dream. Newspapers have been jammed with droll “EFF-off” headlines.

 Perhaps it was a bid for media attention that saw Ramphele jump into bed with the DA and play tonsil tennis with Helen Zille. “Ramphelile” may have trended for a day, but Ma’am-phela and Madam Premier didn’t go all the way. Ramphele got publicity but her lip lock with Zille turned her into a laughing stock.

 “A minor setback,” her spin doctors assured us. “Wait for the polls,” they urged. “Then we’ll see.” We’ve seen and 0, 2% of the vote (which is all that Agang had managed to muster by yesterday afternoon) is hardly a “minor setback”, it’s a major political catastrophe.

 Perhaps the reason for Agang’s spectacular collapse is because the party failed to articulate its position. We know that it is “anti-corruption”. But what is it pro (besides being pro anti-corruption)?

 What does Agang actually stand for? If it had won the election what sort of South Africa would it deliver?

 As the ballots were counted yesterday and the air rushed out of the Agang political whoopee cushion, it seemed increasingly certain that Ramphele’s political future was over. She’s not getting a seat in parliament.

 She may secure enough votes to get a barstool in the pub down the street from parliament but that’s as close to power as she’s going to get.

 However, it’s not all doom and gloom. A chorus of “Ag shame, Agang” flooded the Twittersphere as Ramphele won the social media sympathy vote. 

Perhaps the lesson for Ramphele is this: Before you get to have a seat you must first stand for something.



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