One of the shortest careers in South African history has ended in ignominy (humiliation, embarrassment, discomfiture, shame, disgrace, dishonor), with Mamphela Ramphele stepping down from formal politics as the leader of the party she founded – almost two months to the day South Africa’s voters showed her exactly what they felt about her ambitions.
Ramphele formed AgangSA (Let’s Build South Africa) on the back of a wave of media hype, hot air and broad promises, but very little in terms of either policy or identity beyond her own, admittedly oversized, personality.
There’s no doubt that she will always enjoy a very real place in the history for the liberation of South Africa from apartheid. There’s no doubt either that she brought with her a very impressive post apartheid CV. Politics, though, is an unforgiving mistress – and no place for vanity, without a real support base and true leadership.
Ramphele could not keep her party together, many joined her only to have their beliefs dashed and their careers rudely interrupted, some perhaps fatally. As for the people she thought would flock to her banner, rich and poor, tired with the status quo of the ruling ANC and opposition DA, they showed her exactly what they thought on May 07th, 2014.
Their decision could well have been spurred by her disastrous flirtation with the DA, which managed the rare double of deeply offending both parties and showing potential voters a side of her personality that her party official had long began to suspect was the true face of the new self-proclaimed “mother of the nation”.
Now she has chosen to step down to leave party politics and “return to working alongside my fellow citizens in civil society to pursue the dream of transforming our democracy into a more jus and prosperous society!”
Perhaps the most prosaic (banal mundane, dull, colourless, characterless, commonplace) reason is that her tiny little party kicked her out for, in the words of AgangSA deputy leader Andries Tlouamma, “treating it like a personal ATM machine”.
Ironically in the end, she appears to have been a victim of the very democracy she appeared to so publicly espouse (take up, adopt, support, back, advocate, promote).