554 Agang SA's Dr Mamphele Ramphele during a media briefing at their offices in Braamfontein where the party announces her as their presidential candidate and also giving clarity on the Agang, DA saga. 030214. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Mamphela Ramphele says she is forced again into the spirit of the 1970s, fighting for dignity, freedom and democracy.

In the mid-1970s a handful of brave students decided to fight against a system that was designed to make them feel inferior, worthless and without aspiration; a system that was designed to take away their future, freedom and dignity.

It was a fight to be what they knew they were: people of dignity and worth, capable of greatness.

By any account, it was a fight they had no hope of winning.

Yet today many South Africans enjoy the freedom for which they fought. I was part of that struggle, and the lesson it taught me was a simple and powerful one: never underestimate the courage and determination of a small band of individuals who fight a just fight.

Whenever I hear people say to me that a vote for AgangSA is a wasted vote, I remember the Struggle years, the fight of a small group of individuals, and I wonder, where is their sense of history?

I know that struggle is hard and that victory can take time. But a just struggle sustains you. It energises you. It picks you up in the morning, and gives you sleep at night. When the unexpected happened and our beloved Madiba was released, our joy was unconstrained.

For many of us who were in the Struggle, it was the end of an era.

I went on to realise personal goals, but always goals linked to the Struggle – how to continue to contribute to deepening and strengthening the democracy we had fought so hard to achieve.

Sadly, as the years have passed, I have seen that bright future we fought for disintegrate and slip through our fingers like sand.

Now our children die in pit toilets, our women live in the shadow of ukuthwala (the practice of abducting young girls and forcing them into marriage), citizens hurl faeces against government buildings, parties march on each other and hurl racial insults at each other in the name of democracy – even as they electioneer, making empty promise after empty promise to despairing citizens.

Politicians anaesthetise voters with food parcels, RDP houses, and some prey on the vulnerabilities and desperation of the young to win votes with impossible-to-implement promises.

And then there is corruption – it escapes people that the amount of money that vanished from the national account last year, according to the auditor-general, amounts to an Nkandla every three days.

That small band of fighters in the 1970s did not fight to achieve a climate of fear, patronage, almost non-existent economic growth, sub-standard education, failing health care systems, impunity among public servants, cronyism, dependent citizens, and tenderpreneurs.

Nor did we fight for an ineffectual official opposition that cannot attract millions of black voters who see its preoccupation with preserving the privileges and interests of mainly white communities.

I am forced again into the spirit of the 1970s, fighting for dignity, freedom and democracy.

As in the 1970s, citizens must stand with real patriots to protect our democracy, to struggle again against the old enemies of tyranny, corruption, the refusal of accountability, and the theft of resources and dignity from the people of this country.

We must break the DA-ANC status quo that is taking us nowhere and reignite hope in the millions of South Africans who are without a political home.

Critics say we can have no impact on this status quo, yet Agang SA’s words and policy positions are constantly being copied by other political parties.

The DA, which once spoke of creating millions of jobs, now speaks as we have done all along of “creating a conducive climate for business to create jobs”.

Where we have always spoken of hope and belief in active citizens, other parties are now using the same language. AgangSA has brought effective land reform to the table, the notion of a professional public service, and free education for all. Others listen carefully and repeat our lines.

Why did they not articulate these solutions in their own words long ago? In their copying, other parties recognise that AgangSA’s message resonates with what we fought for back in the 1970s.

But in their self-interest, they have not been able to voice the dreams and vision we can.

Our fight to reclaim our future is worth fighting. It is a fight I have fought before; and it is a fight citizens have won before.

* Mamphela Ramphele is leader of AgangSA.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Sunday Independent