No big names on Agang launch list

By Shanti Aboobaker And Mogomotsi Magome Time of article published Jun 23, 2013

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Pretoria - Agang leader Mamphela Ramphele failed to announce any big new names with the exception of former Unisa vice-chancellor Barney Pityana, who will be joining the party.

Ramphele had given the impression that she would introduce to the public prominent individuals who would back the party as it prepares to contest next year’s general elections.

Addressing members and volunteers at the launch in Pretoria on Saturday, Ramphele said many experienced MPs and “battle hardened activists” would join Agang’s national and provincial leaders in the coming months.

She said the party would hold its first elective conference before the end of the year to vote for leadership, but it remained unclear whether any existing politicians had already agreed to join the party.

Ramphele told people in recent weeks that she approached the United Democratic Movement (UDM) to form a coalition but on Saturday UDM leader Bantu Holomisa reacted angrily when asked whether he had been courted by Agang.

“How can you even ask me whether I have been recruited by Agang, I lead a political party,” said Holomisa.

Agang was known to have been in negotiations with the DA before talks broke down with Ramphele deciding to form what was initially a “political platform” –until on Saturday’s party launch.

In a fiery speech to about 2 500 supporters, Ramphele outlined the key policy focus areas of the fledgling party. “Corruption is at the heart of the problems our country faces today. Corruption and a culture of impunity have spread throughout government and society, stealing textbooks from classrooms, stealing drugs from those living with HIV and stealing thousands of jobs and billions of rands of investment,” she said.

“What angers me is that these are all failures of political will, not policy or a lack of money.”

Electoral reform will remain high on the agenda, she said, adding that “the voters of Marikana or Ficksburg should be able to vote for someone who lives in their own area. If they see their MPs sleeping in Parliament, or failing to perform, they should be able to fire them at the ballot box”.

She said unemployment, crime and a poor education system were a betrayal of those who had fought for freedom.

“Let us be clear. These are not just bumps on the road to a better future. This government is destroying our economy and our society. These are not inevitable pains of a transitional period,” she said.

“They are a betrayal of the founding principles of our democracy. A betrayal of what our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers fought and died for.”

Millions of South Africans were “living like forgotten people and yet this government seems blind to their suffering and despair”, she said, adding that it could not “be trusted to run our economy”.

“It has failed our mining and agricultural industries and put thousands of small companies out of business. It does not know how to create jobs and we cannot rely on public sector employment alone if we are to get South Africa working again,” she said.

The ANC government’s “lack of imagination and leadership, as shown by this government’s chilling ‘shoot to kill’ instruction to police… led to the tragedy at Marikana and to increasing police brutality.”

Agang political director Moeketsi Mosola later told The Sunday Independent that Archbishop Emeritus, Desmond Tutu’s statement that he welcomed Ramphele’s entry into politics was important for the party.

“He is someone who is held in high regard and the fact that he welcomes the different voice that Agang is bringing is quite significant. He is someone worth listening to,” said Mosola.

But Tutu’s office clarified that his comments were not an endorsement of Agang.

Pityana, who was active in the black consciousness movement with Ramphele and her partner Steve Biko, in the 1970s, was the only big name announcement, saying he would “certainly” be joining the party.

“It’s the freshest breath of air we’ve had in the political scene. I thought Mamphela’s address touched all the right buttons,” he said.

When Agang was launched in February as a political platform, there was speculation that Pityana did not support the initiative, but on Saturday he said he had never declined to join the party.

“I never said I wouldn’t join. I want to see what Agang will carry forward. I have a long relationship with Mamphela and I have respect for her integrity,” he said.

But Pityana will not stand for public office because he is “too old”.

Professor Njabulo Ndebele, who along with Pityana sat in the front row, said he would not be joining Agang.

“I haven’t considered the prospect (of joining). I try to be an informed member of the public who expresses critical and well-crafted responses. One needs to be independent to do that. I have not been a member of any party,” he said. However, he was “singularly impressed” by Ramphele’s speech which addressed the “critical and burning issues” facing South Africans.

“I was invited to attend and was very pleased to accept because I was fascinated by the prospect of a new political organisation entering the public space, and I wanted to see for myself,” Ndebele said.

But most supporters were also convinced that Agang was an alternative political force.

 

Pretoria resident David Sekwadila said he was uncertain about how Agang would relate to poor voters as it appeared to be full of academics.

“It’s full of academics and professionals and I don’t know whether a lot of poor people in the rural areas will identify with them.

“They don’t seem to be people who will go out a lot to the rural area and townships, but maybe they will. So far I am not convinced they will change anything so I’m a bit undecided,” he said.

Busisiwe Ngobeni was one of the people bused in from Alexandra, Joburg. She said her trip was worthwhile as Ramphele sounded determined to change things.

“It sounds like a great party to be part of and I have already joined them. In the townships there is currently a lot of corruption and she said it will be one of the things she deals with first, she deserves to be given a chance,” said Ngobeni.

Protector Tshaka, from Sebokeng, said she was touched by Ramphele’s focus on education as it was the main thing contributing to unemployment.

“You see, if we can work on education, things like people not having jobs and then being involved in crime and corruption will come to an end. Let us hope she is not just saying it only to forget what she told us by the time she is in power,” said Tshaka.

Sunday Independent

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