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Mamphela’s Agang is an early Christmas gift for the ANC

22 February 2013, 07:19

Once again, Dr Mamphela Ramphele has met my expectations. I really expected her to make a very laughable announcement on Monday and she did exactly that. Not only is Dr Ramphele’s bold, and yet ill-reasoned, decision to form a “political platform” laughable, but it is crucial for the ANC’s prospects of increasing its majority come the 2014 polls.

Agang is going to assist, rather than challenge, the ANC in the coming general elections. And why do I say so? Firstly, Agang will essentially garner support from many South Africans who always hop from one opposition party to the other. These are the people who used to vote for the ANC but felt betrayed, or disappointed by a  number of things, and decided to opt for other ‘alternatives’, e.g. COPE, DA, Minority, etc.

Since the last two elections, DA has emerged as a stubborn opponent for the ANC during elections. In the 1994 national and provincial election the DA, then called Democratic Party, scooped 7 out of 400 (or 1.75 per cent) seats in the national parliament, compared to 63 per cent of the ANC. In ten years, the DA had grown their dominance by a staggering 606 per cent, increasing their share of the national votes from 1.75 per cent in 1994 to 12.37 per cent in 2004.

By 2009, this phenomenal growth in the DA support had slowed down. It grew by 30 per cent from 12.37 per cent in 2004 to 16.66 per cent in 2009, a drop in the ocean compared to the 606 per cent in the previous period. This is the same year that ANC splinter party COPE snatched 7.42 per cent of the votes in their debut polls. Agang, the new political formation announced by Dr Ramphele, is more likely to further put strain on opposition parties, which must fight for the 30 per cent of the voters each year.

But the most likely outcome of the formation of Agang will be the reduction in the speed of growth of the DA in particular. The vote of the opposition will be severely divided, leaving the ANC with a guaranteed majority. This will be a very favourable phenomenon for the ANC itself.  

Secondly, Dr Ramphele has failed to do one important task before venturing into politics; learn from the lessons of history. Despite its dynamic and distinctive nature, the history of South Africa’s politics has significant similarities which even an amateur cannot miss, namely; 1. No South African party has ever be founded on individual fame, and succeeded; and 2. Any political party founded on bitterness and emotions often evaporate into thin air once the anger subsides.

These are important lessons which are readily available for any person wishing to venture into politics. Dr Ramphele missed a wonderful opportunity to study these carefully before her bold decision to form a political party, which is poised to bolster the performance of the ruling ANC come the 2014 polls.

Lest I am misinterpreted, it is not the gist of this article to discourage Dr Ramphele, or any South African, in joining or forming a political party. The country is rich with laws that empower any person to freely associate within the set limits. Dr Ramphele can even open four sets of ‘political platforms’ for all I care. But she must be told beforehand of the dangers associated therewith. The game of politics is not designed for the faint-hearted.

People often confuse the affability shown to them by the media, anarchists and opposition politicians as real support. In the not so far past, Methodist minister Mvume Dandala confused the support shown to him by, amongst others, members of his congregation, as popularity. Embarrassed and frustrated, the Reverend had to resign from active politics later on. Had the Reverend appreciated the counsel offered to him, he would still be a respectable man of the cloth till this day.

What kind of party will Agang be? I ask these question because the opening speech of Dr Ramphele provided a litany of the challenges facing the country, and what leaders were purportedly doing wrong, rather than how Dr Ramphele will do things differently. How will the party elect leadership, since it is founded by an individual? How will it adopt policies? What will happen if anything happens to Dr Ramphele? Will the party cease to exist? How is the party ideologically distinct from any existing political party? What is the political, strategic and socio-economic basis of Agang?

The announcement by Dr Ramphele of a new party can be likened to a junior pastor of an Apolistic church, who feels that he has become more popular, righteous and biblically informed than the reigning pastor. Quite often such a pastor would arrange corrugated irons, steel bars, and window frames to erect his own ‘missionary’. He will then open his church, as the sole pastor, leaving with the few members who supported him. This church would often die a slow but definite death. So Dr Ramphele must stop behaving like a pop artist, to whom popularity is measured by chart ratings and analyses by “music experts” sitting in their radio stations. Her Agang will do nothing but make the ANC even merrier in the next elections.   

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