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Ramphele needs to ponder future

Leader of Agang Mamphela Ramphele at the IEC Election Results Centre in Pretoria. Picture: Chris Collingridge.

Leader of Agang Mamphela Ramphele at the IEC Election Results Centre in Pretoria. Picture: Chris Collingridge.

Published May 11, 2014


Johannesburg - One of AgangSA’s trump cards, top forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan, dumped the party on election day.

O’Sullivan’s departure followed that of the doomed party’s former communications and political directors, former newspaper editor Thabo Leshilo and ex-SA Tourism boss Moeketsi Mosola, in the run-up to the elections.

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Agang was launched a year before the elections amid much fanfare and observers projected that the party founded by Black Consciousness Movement activist and businesswoman Dr Mamphela Ramphele would garner between 5 percent and 10 percent of the votes.

A week after the party’s launch, Democracy Works Foundation chairman and author William Mervin Gumede warned it would have been better strategically for it to join forces with the DA right from the outset.

At the time, Gumede told The Sunday Independent’s sister newspaper, the Saturday Star: “Dr Ramphele should have gone in with the attitude ‘yes, the DA is still too white – but I’m joining it to change that’.”

Following Agang’s dismal showing, Gumede said Ramphele had been out of politics for too long and had a similar problem with other politicians starting new parties.

They misjudged people’s anger, said Gumede.

When Ramphele finally joined the DA as its presidential candidate earlier this year, she did so without informing members of her party and was forced to back down embarrassingly from her decision.

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After the fallout, the party attempted, unsuccessfully, to cover the fact that the donor behind its ill-fated but brief flirtation with the DA was Swazi businessman Natie Kirsh.

Gumede said not only Agang but all other small parties, such as the United Democratic Movement, should join hands.

But Ramphele faces other challenges, including that in politics it’s not easy to retract her previous pronouncements and actions and might not be able to close shop because of her pride, according to Gumede.

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“If you go into politics, clearly you have an ego,” he said.

Gumede said Agang should have been a non-governmental organisation or social movement from the beginning.

The movement or lobby group would target protest hot spots, for example, something Gumede said had not been done in South Africa.

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“The Workers and Socialist Party (Wasp) did it around one factor – mining. Agang would do it with broader issues,” said Gumede.

Wasp has also not done well in the elections.

Gumede suggested that the party should have drawn up a petition, choosing two or three things that people feel strongly about. “If you don’t get a million (signatures), forget about it,” Gumede said.

Ramphele’s choice of electoral reform as one of her key strategies was a mistake, he said.

“If you go to KwaMashu, Durban (with electoral reform), people won’t understand because you’re not talking their language,” he said.

Gumede said Agang could not get the reasons why many people were unhappy right.

He suggested the party had a few options.

It could dissolve, arguing that the electorate dismissed them and therefore they had no traction. It could be swallowed up by another bigger opposition party or be part of a grand coalition of all opposition parties, black and white.

Being swallowed would entail a similar route as the New National Party, which joined with the Democratic Party to form the DA.

But Gumede said Ramphele and other Agang leaders could not be at the forefront of such a coalition of opposition parties other than the DA owing to the party’s poor showing in the elections.

“She must mobilise, meet all opposition parties who have done badly, including Cope,” he said.

More importantly, Ramphele should think, consult, put scenarios and investigate before making a decision, Gumede said.

Another option, Gumede said, would be to form a super opposition party including the DA.

Ramphele could also find comfort in that.

“In politics, you’re never completely damaged goods”.


Two months after its launch, Ramphele

put her worth at R55.5m despite Forbes magazine dubbing her one of Africa’s nine richest women in 2011 and estimating her wealth to be $50m (over R518m).


Maybe O’Sullivan, who was number 10 on Agang’s national list, has given Ramphele a cue. Asked why he left, he said: “Politics is taking up too much of my time from exposing corruption and tackling gangsters.”

- The Sunday Independent

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