Less than a week after confirming she would stand as the South African opposition party’s presidential candidate in the forthcoming national elections, Dr. Mamphela Ramphele has reneged on the deal, and shattered her Mandela dream of leading the country as shadow president. Opposition leader, Helen Zille was quick to say her long-time friend could not be trusted, as would be the case with anyone who reneges on a promise of this importance.
In a statement issued late on Sunday, Zille said Dr. Ramphele had refused to finalize her agreement to stand as the Democratic Alliance (DA) presidential candidate, in spite of having initiated the decision to “go public” the previous Tuesday. The agreement hinged on Ramphele incorporating Agang SA, the political party she formed in February last year, into the DA, together with its members, branches and its volunteers. She also pointed out that in terms of the Constitution, Dr. Ramphele would only be able to sit in Parliament as shadow president if she belonged to the opposition party.
This morning Zille tweeted: “Politics requires calculated risks.” She said sometimes these risks work and sometimes they don’t. But when they don’t they are, “rarely fatal.” The DA had seen through Ramphele’s “duplicity quickly. Now we move on.”
This is how a Las Vegas wedding works: Infatuation, marriage, divorce within a week amidst recriminations.
Tweeted by Justice Malala, political commentator and newspaper columnist
Dr. Ramphele is a highly respected businesswomen, university executive, and medical doctor. In the 1970s she worked alongside her partner, Steve Biko, one of the country’s best-known black consciousness leaders. Like him, she was an anti-apartheid activist; one of the many thousands who played a pivotal role in the peaceful transformation of South Africa to democracy. She was also a personal friend of Nelson Mandela, the country’s first democratically elected president.
After accepting the DA’s offer that she stand as their “presidential candidate” last week, Ramphele published a statement on the Agang website that said the new alignment would deliver “the country of our dreams.” She also referred to Nelson Mandela several times saying that his death last year had “changed many things for South Africa.” Alluding to a Mandela dream, the South African opposition presidential candidate said what the two parties could now create was “the place Madiba set out for us.” Just five days later, this dream was shattered when it was reported yesterday that, “Ramphele reneges.”
This is not the first time in South African political history that the DA has formed mergers with other parties. In fact the party itself is proud that it has progressively been formed as a result of many movements and political parties merging over the years. It is also in keeping with its stated aim to build a “strong non-racial opposition force.” Originally launched as the Progressive Party in 1959, it became the Democratic Party (DP) when the Progressive Federal Party and National Democratic Movement merged in 1988. The party changed its name to the DA when it merged with the New National Party (NNP) and the Federal Alliance in 1994. In 2010, after winning control of the Western Cape province, the DA merged with the Independent Democrats and appointed the former ID leader, Patricia de Lille as the City of Cape Town’s mayor. Dr. Ramphele was instrumental in the success of this merger.
At last week’s media conference, Zille and Ramphele were photographed hugging, kissing and smiling together. A day later Ramphele announced in a video interview that she was a member and the leader of Agang, and had no intention of joining the DA. She said the idea was to have “an electoral arrangement and a party collaboration arrangement” that would give voters who were “yearning for change away from a corrupt, unaccountable, incompetent ANC” another option. It would be “a combination of two parties” that want to build a country based on “our beautiful constitution.”
Dr. Ramphele maintained Tuesday’s announcement was simply one of “intention,” and the “the relationship” of the two parties would be structured later. Both would have to “shift from an old self to a new self,” for it to succeed. The essential aim, she said, was to “live beyond the politics of identity,” away from the “culture of corruption and impunity that the ANC has become.”
At a press conference this morning she said some people were trapped in what appeared to be “old-style race-based politics” that would foil the opportunity to “transcend party politics.” If accepting the nomination as presidential candidate for the DA meant she had to join the party, she was not able to accept the offer, she said.
Zille also held a press conference this morning. She said she had been trying for a very long time to involve Dr. Ramphele into the DA, and the most recent move was “a genuine and good faith attempt” to create a strong, united opposition that would be able to build an alternative government. She described Ramphele’s claim that she could remain leader of Agang but stand for the DA as “electoral nonsense.” Having said in her official statement that Ramphele reneges, she added that the DA now knew Mamphela Ramphele should not be put forward as the South African Presidential Candidate. It would be unconstitutional, even though this was what voters in polls, “from boardrooms to shacks,” had indicated they wanted. Undoubtedly the Mandela dream has been shattered.
By Penny Swift