Ramphele comes out guns blazing

By Lee-ann Alfreds Time of article published Jun 22, 2013

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First she pondered whether South Africa would have been better off had Nelson Mandela served two terms. Then she questioned the independence of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). Finally, she accused the DA of not “understanding the scars of racism”.

The controversial topics over the last 10 days – so different from her normal musings on the parlous state of the education system, the country’s democracy and leadership – signalled that Agang leader Dr Mamphela Ramphele was hitting her stride as her organisation prepared for its official launch as a political party in Tshwane today.

It also went a little way towards answering a question many analysts have been pondering: is Ramphele, a former World Bank managing director and a black consciousness advocate, too idealistic, nice and principled for the dirty game of politics?

The answer for the DA, whom she attacked at the Cape Town Press Club on Tuesday, is clearly “no”. Saying the party “just did not understand” that the scars of racism had not entirely healed, Ramphele said talks with the DA about merging had failed because the opposition wanted to “co-opt” her.

“The DA and I disagree, not because they have a different kind of policy position, but they don’t understand just that… the scars of racism in this country have not completely healed. Those wounds… there may be a scar, but underneath, if you touch that scar, it bleeds. Particularly in the Cape, we need to get real.”

DA spokesman Mmusi Maimane said it was “unfair and unfortunate” to say the party did not understand that the scars of racism had not entirely healed.

“We have championed the idea of redress on the issue of land for example,” he said.

Earlier, Ramphele had questioned the integrity of the IEC, long held up as a beacon of independence that has won international and national awards for its scanning technology which enhances transparency of the election process.

Indicating Agang had concerns about the independence of elections, Ramphele said the IEC had “eroded as an independent electoral commission”.

She pointed out voter education and the IEC’s service providers as areas of concern.

Ramphele said that during a four-month tour of the country, she had become aware of “sinister” intimidation of voters. She had heard of some people being required to take pictures of their ballot papers with their cellphones to be “rewarded for doing the right thing”.

“Voters don’t actually know that they have a choice. Many are being told that if you go into that ballot box, we can see who you vote for and therefore we will punish you and take away your grants or your RDP houses,” she said.

Ramphele kicked off her seemingly more aggressive style of campaigning last week when she said it would have been better had Mandela served two terms as president as he was more of a “committed democrat” than the current leadership.

But attention on the party has also been building as high-profile supporters – whom Ramphele promised would show their hands ahead of the launch – have made themselves known.

The first and by far the biggest coup was Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

“Hers is a voice that is worth hearing, and I look forward to the contribution she will make towards building the society we know we can become,” Tutu said.

Next came the news that the a woman claiming to be the daughter of slain ANC leader Chris Hani was joining Agang.

Accusing the ANC of betraying her father’s legacy, Vanessa Hani told the Sowetan the ANC and SACP no longer had direction. -Saturday Star

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