Mamphela Ramphele ‘stole my idea’ for NGO

2013-06-16 10:00

Former unionist James Motlatsi speaks out

Agang founder Dr Mamphela Ramphele has been accused of having “stolen” the idea for her citizens’ movement from former unionist James Motlatsi and retired mining boss Bobby Godsell.

Motlatsi said at a lecture last week at Witwatersrand University that Ramphele “tried to steal” their idea for a citizens’ movement, two people who attended the lecture told City Press.

The allegation comes on the eve of Ramphele’s plans to launch her own political party, Agang SA, in Pretoria next Saturday. Some NGO workers have accused her of having used her Citizens’ Movement for Social Change as a platform to launch her political career, but she has denied it.

Interviewed this week, Motlatsi said he and Godsell “approached Mamphela in the early stages when we were thinking about (a citizens’ movement). Then all of a sudden when we were in the process of founding the movement, she founded hers.”

But he denied that there was bad blood between them and said although he didn’t receive an invite to the Agang SA launch, he would go if he got one.

Godsell said Motlatsi “was using ‘steal’ loosely”. He explained that they proposed a citizens’ charter in a book they published in 2008, and that Ramphele spoke at the Cape Town launch of this book.

“We began working together on a movement in 2009. James and I were keen to work slowly, canvassing support for the idea of a charter and a membership-based movement until we could launch with at least 100 people.”

He said Ramphele was welcome to sign their charter as well. Ramphele, however, wanted to create “an NGO that did stuff on the ground, which she proceeded to set up and which started working last year”.

Ramphele launched the Citizens’ Movement of SA last year, but resigned in December after making the decision to enter politics.

In April, Godsell and Motlatsi launched their Citizens’ Movement, which involves citizens signing a charter to share expertise and ideas. The movement is in the process of setting up regional structures.

Ramphele said the movement she founded was “nonpartisan” and was meant “to mobilise young people, professional people and older people”. She said Godsell and Motlatsi’s work “is complementary” to it.

Commenting on the launch of Agang SA next week, Ramphele told City Press she had not experienced any intimidation or threats, as Cope experienced in its formative stages.

Hola Bon Renaissance Foundation, an NGO, this week claimed that Agang SA had “hijacked” the name of a project belonging to the organisation and said it was seeking legal advice on the matter.

But Agang SA shrugged this off, saying it had launched in February this year, while the foundation only launched its trademark application in April.

Cope similarly faced a copyright suit from the ANC on its formation in 2008.

Although there had been no threats, Ramphele admitted to playing it safe by having bodyguards. “There is a difference between being fearless and being foolish,” she said. “You can’t drive around at night in a crime-ridden environment because you are fearless.

“There is no doubt that a woman like me, with the decisions I’ve made, is vulnerable and I don’t want mysterious accidents happening around me with no witnesses,” she said, adding that “everybody in the country has bodyguards”.

Asked whether she thinks she has what it takes to make it as a politician, she said: “I am not a politician. I am a citizen who has entered politics.”

Ramphele said she wanted the political culture to change to “reflect the values of the Constitution”.

She added she was sure she could survive in politics. “I have survived worse.”

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