Mamphela battling to save her political career?
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Agang SA leader Mamphela Ramphele does not have it easy right now: she is embroiled in internal party factionalism while trying hard to resuscitate her young and misfortunate career in politics.
Youth Day evidenced the latter this week in Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township. Fewer than a hundred children and adults attentively stood around her at Kuyasa Clinic where she was the guest speaker at an event marking the murder of anti-apartheid student protesters on June 16, 1976.
Ramphele’s lone sloganeering failed to elevate the atmosphere.
“I’m here as a grandmother, mother and freedom fighter. We have to work together to build our education system,” she said.
She politicked: “Here (in the Western Cape) we have a DA (Democratic Alliance) government that has shown it has capacity in some areas. In the area of education, more needs to be done.
“To make sure someone in Khayelitsha is getting the same education as someone in Camp’s Bay… Khayelitsha needs sports facilities. The money is there but not the political will.”
She then promised that “businesses” would play a role in developing the area.
Among the small audience were only two other journalists, including the one writing this article, perhaps indicating the interest a Ramphele rally elicits.
Agang SA national youth coordinator Nyameka Mguzulo, a former ANC Youth League member based in Cape Town, called this journalist about the event an hour before it was set to start.
One editor’s response to the announcement was: “But I think we are all a bit over RM.” Another offered: “Not something we’re too keen on but let’s hear what she says.”
After a bit of song and dance with local groups and posing for photos with Khayelitsha residents, Ramphele moved swiftly in a black Landrover to the Buyel’embo cultural village. Her entourage arrived later and she held a lengthy meeting with them at the venue.
Agang SA had previously held a public rally at this venue that serves as a local braai spot and hangout.
Its owner Moses Gxothiwe said Agang SA asked him if they could participate in his Youth Day event that would include a fashion show, live music performances and a DJ.
“Agang will be paying R40 for each person that comes to this event. We will give them an opportunity to speak at the event,” said Gxothiwe.
The party confirmed that it was only attending the event and had not organised it or contributed funds to hosting it. It said an Agang SA branch in the area organised the gathering at Kuyasa Clinic.
Ramphele said her efforts were aimed at a “need to refocus on building bottom-up”.
It cannot be easy trying to build credibility after her kiss of death: a public display of affection with DA leader Helen Zille earlier this year. Who could forget their announcement that Ramphele would run as that party’s presidential candidate. She turned her back on that move a split second later.
Ramphele confirmed she and Zille, leader in the Western Cape province, “are not enemies”.
“She’s a person I’ve worked with for a very long time. When she won this significant number of seats (in the May 7 election), I sent her an sms congratulating her. And she sent me an sms back. We are fellow South Africans,” said Ramphele.
There are other more important matters anyway. Ramphele and her party’s chairman Mike Tshishonga both opened cases with police this weekend to investigate who opened an account in the party’s name to receive a refund from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
Ramphele’s familiar face may also have won her party two seats in Parliament, but a faction within the organisation she launched last year want her out. Shortly after the election, it was reported that the party’s deputy president Andries Tlouamma was leading a campaign against her.
Ramphele said she would prefer not to “focus on factions and power plays” because it was “ordinary people that matter”.
Among these ‘ordinary people’ at Buyel’embo was dancer Bukiwe Njani, 21, from working class Delft neighbourhood, with its government housing and string of informal settlements, next to Khayelitsha. She was ready to perform with her three friends at the Youth Day event.
“I heard about Mamphela Ramphele but not about Agang SA. I didn’t know she was the leader of Agang. I’m so embarrassed,” said Njani at the event.
“I saw her (Ramphele) for the first time on the news. I was interested to know what this woman was doing. My neighbour is interested in politics. He told me she was who wants to inspire the youth.
“I would love to meet her. She doesn’t give up. It was April or May, before we voted, and me and my sister were having this conversation. My sister said, ‘That woman has something’.”
Mzwandile Zazi, 19, from Khayelitsha, is a second-year financial accounting student at the University of Cape Town. He said at the event he would “listen to what she has to say”.
But he had already made up his mind: “Politicians didn’t do anything for me. I’m not a fan of politicians.”
“I have heard about Agang and who started it. I haven’t read anything about it but I know they want to eradicate corruption in South Africa. I’m not sure this (event) will make a mark on people. Every day is a struggle here. Her presence should be felt on a usual day too,” said Zazi.
He painted Ramphele in the same light as all other politicians.
“I’m cynical about South African politicians. You don’t know if they’re doing something for publicity or from the goodness of their hearts. I don’t see something positive from these rallies.”