DA courts Mamphela Ramphele
Carien du Plessis and Mandy Rossouw, City Press
Johannesburg - The DA has been wooing struggle heavyweight Mamphela Ramphele as a possible candidate to succeed its leader Helen Zille.
City Press spoke to 10 people in and close to the DA, seven of whom said they were aware of this.
But Ramphele told City Press she had never, in her 42 years as an active citizen, joined a political party.
“I am not a joiner but a change agent. I have always seen my role as a change agent supporting any
appropriate transformative process initiated by any South African.”
She said she spoke "to many audiences regardless of political affiliation".
On Thursday the prominent academic and businesswoman took part in a debate organised by the DA Young Professionals in Cape Town, the first time she has appeared on a public DA platform.
A party source said Ramphele had been approached by DA leaders, and a source close to Zille said she “has been asking Mamphela for years” to join the DA.
“Obviously we’d really like to have her in the party. There are things we see eye to eye on. She now has this message of active citizenry and this resonates with us.”
The source said Ramphele would consider the DA’s advances if there was a real chance of running for president of the country, or if she felt she could no longer influence government outside formal politics.
Party strategists reckon the DA’s first chance of governing the country – as part of a coalition – would be 2019, but then Ramphele would be 72, meaning she would probably be too old to govern.
Zille and Ramphele’s relationship goes back to the University of Cape Town when Zille was communications chief and Ramphele was vice chancellor.
“There is no doubt they are very close, but it is not a given that just because Helen wants her, she would get a top position. Dr Ramphele would need to go through the electoral college, like [Cape Town mayor] Patricia de Lille,” a senior MP said.
De Lille on Thursday called Ramphele “sister” and said Ramphele had been there for her “day and night” with advice on governance issues. Ramphele has also helped the party with economic policy.
It is an open secret that Zille is thinking about making way for a leader who will appeal to black voters.
Another source close to Zille said she was considering stepping down as early as the party’s conference later this year, but without a clear successor, would have to remain for another two-year term.
Zille “wants to have control over the succession and made it clear she wants to bring people of prominence to the party to be in a position to take over from her", said the parliamentarian.
A DA official said Ramphele was in a “delicate position".
"I think her head lies with us, but her heart is in the struggle movement.”
Zille declined to comment but DA federal chairperson James Selfe said he knew nothing about overtures to Ramphele.