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 misfortuned career in politics.
Youth Day evidenced the latter this week in Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township. Fewer than 100 children and adults stood attentively 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.
“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, perhaps indicating the interest a Ramphele rally elicits.
After a bit of song and dance with local groups and posing for photos with Khayelitsha residents, Ramphele moved swiftly into a black Landrover to the Buyel’embo cultural village. Her entourage arrived later and she held a lengthy meeting with them at the venue.
Village owner Moses Gxothiwe said Agang SA asked him if they could participate in his Youth Day event, which included 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.
But the party confirmed that it was only attending and had not organised or contributed funds to hosting the event. It said an Agang SA branch in the area organised the gathering at Kuyasa Clinic.
Building from the bottom up
Ramphele said her efforts were aimed at a “need to refocus on building bottom-up”.
The Agang SA leader could be trying to rebuild her credibility after her kiss of death with DA leader Helen Zille earlier this year. Ramphele and Zille together announced that the former would run as the DA’s presidential candidate, a deal that fell through just five days later.
Ramphele said she and the Western Cape leader “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.
But Ramphele may have more important matters to deal with. Ramphele and her party’s chair, Mike Tshishonga, both opened cases with the 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 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”.
It seems Ramphele inspires people yet. Dancer Bukiwe Njani (21) from Delft said 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’.”
No fan of politicians
But Mzwandile Zazi (19) from Khayelitsha, a second-year financial accounting student at the University of Cape Town, said at the event that he would “listen to what she has to say” even though 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.”