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Rean Opperman
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Ramphele: Misconceptions vs expectations

29 January 2014, 07:08
I last wrote a political piece for News24 a few years ago, detailing the US political system and foreign policies and how it relates to South Africa. However, with the latest breaking news of Agang SA leader Mamphela Ramphele joining the DA and becoming their presidential candidate, I feel it's necessary to look at this from a fresh, objective perspective and at the same time try to address some common misconceptions.

The responses to the DA's announcement were varied; there are groups who say she'll win over ANC votes for the DA, and others who say she'll deter some (until now) guaranteed DA voters. The one being an optimistic (I daresay overly optimistic) approach, the other one a more pessimistic outlook on what could happen.
I actually disagree with both. I've followed the thread of the story since the rumours broke that Agang SA are in talks with the DA, and as I've hoped, the DA made the crucial move to include Ramphele in their 2014 election campaign - with her name first on the ticket.

Which brings us to the question: what good will this do? The answer is very simple. Ramphele will bring in the undecideds. She likely won't win over many ANC votes (some, absolutely, but personally I don't see it making a massive difference as she can't rely on an ANC past, like the COPE leaders could during the last election). But the theory that she'll deter DA voters also doesn't hold water for me. Again, maybe a select few will leave the DA for another opposition party, or maybe even abstain from voting.. but the vast majority will either embrace this change, or go along with it.

From a purely analytical perspective then, that leaves us with the undecideds. Those who usually abstain from voting because they don't want to vote for the ANC, but also not for any opposition party as they (in some cases) might feel like they're betraying their old party by "jumping ship", so to speak. Zille put it rather well when she said that she might not be able to convince the black voter base that the DA won't ever bring back apartheid should they be victorious in an election, but that Ramphele would be able to bridge the race gap and appeal to these voters.

While I may not agree with all of the DA's campaign ideas, I do certainly see the sense in this one. In all countries - South Africa being no exception - the undecideds are very often considered a "swing vote", in the sense that it could swing the election victory either way, depending on who manages to appeal to them and win their vote. While it may not swing the victory in 2014 yet, it will certainly do a lot to bring the ANC closer to the 50% mark. And the ANC losing the outright majority in a national election will definitely turn the tides and open the taps wide on an - up till now - predictable political outlook in South Africa.
It's a very, very interesting time for South Africa, politically. 2014 will be interesting enough, to be sure. But 2019? Not even a suspense novel can compete with the tangible signs of a turning tide.
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