Ramphele to take “break” from

Ramphele to take “break” from politics as Agang infighting continues

In an unexpected announcement, Agang SA leader Dr Mamphela Ramphele proclaimed that she would not be taking up either one of the two seats that her party managed to gain in last week’s general elections, opting to rather take time to regroup and focus on her future political strategy – if there is any

Ramphele to take “break” from

Mamphela Ramphele announced in an open letter on the Agang SA website that she will take a break from party politics to “reflect on the Agang SA journey”, following some considerable infighting reported from within the ranks of Agang SA with regard to who might get to occupy the party’s two seats in parliament.

“After such a taxing journey I do need some time and space to settle my mind and body, enjoy time with family and friends, and reconnect with a personal world I have not had time to enjoy for a considerable time now,” Ramphele stated on the party’s website.

She added in her statement that she would be handing the party’s reins over to Agang SA National Youth Forum Co-ordinator Nyameka Mguzulo and Agang Chairman Mike Tshishonga, who are now to take the two seats in parliament that the party won in last week’s national elections. It is alleged that the two rather unknown politicians Mguzulo and Tshishonga received the parliamentary mandates as a clumsily ironed-out compromise after the party had spent days agonising over the future of its leadership as well as its parliamentary representation in the immediate future. Mguzulo is poised to be the youngest MP in South African parliamentary history.

“I have always said that I was the bridge and would make sure that the reins are handed over at an appropriate time to a new generation of leaders. Nyameka and Mike will continue to fight for our principles and to achieve our Manifesto within the Assembly,” Ramphele commented about the succession without going into any further detail about the fall-out at the recent party meetings in Johannesburg.

“This is where I believe I can make the most valuable contribution to the party and my beloved country. I will remain available to provide counsel and advice to the Parliamentary team and help them enrich the national debate. Let us continue to build the party for 2016.”

Ramphele also described her initial foray into politics as “the most exhilarating, daunting, and challenging time” of her life.

She may have hit the nail with that description. Having secured only little over 50,000 votes, Agang SA only narrowly managed to get into the National Assembly with two seats. It was widely expected that one of those two seats would certainly be occupied by party leader Mamphela Ramphele herself, but after ongoing leadership challenges came to a head, it emerged that she must have rather decided to jump boat when she wasn’t given a choice in picking the occupant of that second seat.

Pitting Ramphele’s choice of Cape Town lawyer Andrew Gasnolar against the party’s deputy president (and Ramphele’s inner-party adversary) Andries Tlouamma for the highly-coveted second seat, it would appear that the only compromise the party could manage to reach after several days of meetings was for all three of the hopefuls to bow out and hand the reins over to other candidates, effectively resulting in yet another defeat for Ramphele.

Ramphele expressed some disappointment at the election result in her open letter, implying that she had hoped for a better turnout for her party.

“The people of South Africa spoke loudly and clearly, and showed a preference for the status quo. For an idealist like me, the national choice is disappointing, but I have to accept and respect it.”

However, the short history of her party had faced several obstacles to overcome before even going to the polls, including challenges from being painfully underfunded to publicly mismanaging a prospective union with the Democratic Alliance (DA) at the beginning of the year, which ended up costing both parties valuable credibility points.

In an exclusive interview with thesouthafrican.com in April, DA leader Helen Zille had said that Ramphele had backed off from the arrangement between Agang SA and the DA “when a couple of people around her got cold feet.”

“In any event, Mamphela has spent her political capital because she’s not going to do very well in these elections and there’s not much she can bring to any other party now,” Zille had predicted at the time. Little did Helen Zille apparently realise at the time that Ramphele would wind up not even being able to bring much to her own party anymore.

Erstwhile struggle activist Ramphele, however, rather went on to blame the fateful disagreement between the two parties on technicalities, saying that Agang’s interim constitution would not allow the two party’s to merge at that time – while adding that she would still be happy to run as the DA’s presidential candidate, which the DA rejected.

Rumours have emerged in the meantime from sources within Agang that rather than taking only a short break from politics, Mamphela Ramphele might likely be turning her back to this new struggle in her life altogether. As much as she may feel some hearty disillusionment after partaking in party-politics for merely one year, the 50,000-odd people, who have vested their votes and voices in Agang SA largely on the basis of the personality cult built around Ramphele, might feel much more betrayed than the would-be leader from Camps Bay, making the story of this struggle icon’s attempt to return to the stage rather a tragedy for all involved.

By Sertan Sanderson, 2014