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Wed Oct 22 23:42:26 SAST 2014

Ramphele's party not settling for second best

TJ STRYDOM and DENISE WILLIAMS | 19 February, 2013 00:14
Mamphela Ramphele declared at Constitution Hill in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, yesterday that she was starting a new political platform, Agang. The word means 'build' in SeSotho
Image by: MOELETSI MABE

Mamphela Ramphele's sermon on the hill revealed that she is in fact entering politics and now has 14 months to build an organisation to contest next year's general elections.

Agang, meaning "Build SA" in SeSotho, is the name of the "party political platform" she launched yesterday that will now enter into consultations as it gears up to be a political party.

Her announcement, made in the former woman's prison on Constitution Hill, Braamfontein, had been hyped up for weeks.

Ramphele, an academic and struggle stalwart, pulled no punches yesterday as she said South Africa was being "undermined by a massive failure of government" and a disconnect between trade unions and their members.

She said that party lists in elections gave party bosses "disproportionate" power and the country's citizens were effectively being excluded from governing.

Ramphele has her sights set on reforming the electoral system.

"Our society's greatness is being fundamentally undermined by a massive failure of governance," she said.

". we should be able to vote for the person in our own area we want to represent us in parliament so we can hold them accountable for the electoral promises they make."

The organisation will soon start gathering a million signatures to campaign for a change in the way elections are conducted. Ramphele said she would also campaign to "depoliticise the public service".

She said failure to create a competent, professional and non-partisan public service undermined the quality of governance at all levels.

On the economy and high levels of poverty, she said there was no justification for so much need in the midst of so much opulence.

"It is appalling that an estimated 71% of South Africans in the 15-34 age group are not participating in the economy, and are instead forced to accept the humiliating substitute of social grants."

Agang, Ramphele said, was not aiming for a specific percentage of the vote in the elections, and would not settle for being "an also-ran".

She said when Agang became a political party, it would not merely be "in the opposition business".

United Democratic Movement president Bantu Holomisa said he has had a number of discussions with Ramphele since last year.

"We've discussed this issue [of her forming a political party platform]. I think now she will now be moving from province to province to sell her vision and discuss the possible launch of a political party," said Holomisa.

DA national spokesman Mmusi Maimane said the party had been in ongoing discussions with Ramphele regarding the realignment of politics.

"No deals have been brokered. [DA leader] Helen Zille has a long-standing relationship with Dr Ramphele. The discussion [around political realignment] has been ongoing for years," said Maimane.

"We'll wait and see. We'll have to see what her platform looks like to make a decision in the long term [regarding collaboration]."

The ANC said it believed that the Ramphele-led initiative was ''grievance-driven''.

The ruling said in a statement that Ramphele rehashed ''the known challenges facing our country'', and did not bring any new suggestions to the table.

At a joint briefing by opposition parties last week, FF Plus leader and Agriculture Deputy Minister Pieter Mulder said Ramphele needed to think carefully about which party she aligned herself with.

COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota said there had been discussions about "some kind of union". He said, however, that no formal deals had been brokered.

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