31/10/2012. Founder of the Citizens movement Mamphela Ramphele at the founders lecture held at UNISA. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Cape Town - Black Consciousness activist-turned-businesswoman Mamphela Ramphele is expected to launch a civil society-type campaign on Monday – possibly for electoral reform – as a means of gauging support for a political party in the future.

She is set to make a statement on her “political plans” at the Women’s Gaol on Constitution Hill in Joburg later on Monday.

Close aides said they believed she would launch “a plan”, rather than a political party, with a long-term view towards eventually joining the DA as part of a coalition.

A reliable source said she would call it a “million signatures campaign” aimed at pushing for electoral reform.

Ramphele has stated her opposition to the proportional representation system, calling for reform in the belief that MPs would become more accountable if directly elected.


A former aide to Ramphele said DA leader Helen Zille and a few trusted senior DA members, including strategy guru Ryan Coetzee and federal chairman Wilmot James, had spent months in closed-door discussions with her on how to bring her into the party.

But the view was expressed that she could not be parachuted into a leadership position without making some sort of significant contribution first.

The reluctance of businessmen Moeletsi Mbeki and Sipho Pityana and academic Barney Pityana to join a political party led by Ramphele had been a significant setback to her plans, the former aide said.

Reports that Ramphele had not registered a political party with the Independent Electoral Commission also spoke against the launch of a party today.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa and Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota have not dismissed the possibility of supporting Ramphele, and sources pointed out she could find support among members of the Independent Democrats, which has not yet formally merged with the DA.

This could be the basis for constituting a broad coalition with the official opposition in the future.

But without any new senior business people or academics coming out in support, people close to the discussions suggested a “million signatures” campaign with a big following would go some way in indicating how Ramphele could fare at the polls.

It remains to be seen whether civil society organisations – another constituency Ramphele is believed to be pursuing – would come out in support of such a campaign.

It is understood that as part of her Citizen’s Movement organisation, she had hoped to bring on board rural youth through the thousands of registered NGOs working on social justice issues.

But Zackie Achmat, who founded the Treatment Action Campaign and was instrumental in establishing the Social Justice Coalition, Equal Education and Ndifuna Ukwazi, said he would not be present at today’s launch.

Ramphele pursued Achmat and members of NGOs in which he is influential through her Citizen’s Movement work.

“I don’t believe civil society should be aligned to any political party,” Achmat told Independent Newspapers on Sunday.

Another close Ramphele aide, Rory Tshabalala, who worked with her on her series of letters in the Sunday Independent, said he was “excited” about the launch but could not say more.

Besides saying there would be “young people” at the launch, he declined to drop any names, saying Ramphele’s initiative was “never about dignitaries being there”.

“She has always said we’re all politicians – we’re in politics by virtue of being citizens. As an active citizen, she has always seen herself as in politics,” Tshabalala said.

“But she’s also been clear she’s not the messiah,” he added.

He said an entry by Ramphele into mainstream politics would include efforts to stress “the responsibility of citizens” to remain active.

Political Bureau