Agang calls in Obama’s strategy team

2013-06-23 10:00

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Mamphela Ramphele’s Agang SA hopes that the same team that helped US President Barack Obama to victory in 2008 will help it do well in next year’s general election.

Agang policy director Mills Soko said Agang SA appointed the Benenson Strategy Group “to advise us on elections strategy” because they were “the best we could find”.

But he refused to talk money, saying “they are costly because they are professionals. They are not doing it for free.”

The group has also done political-strategy consulting in Nigeria for former president Umaru Yar’Adua’s winning campaign, and in Jamaica, Romania and Croatia.

It also has corporate clients such as Tampax, Pfizer, Verizon and JPMorgan Chase.

The group’s website says Benenson is “an industry leader, which has successfully taken on some of the most complicated political, corporate and advocacy challenges over the past decade”.

Although Benenson also conducts opinion polls, Soko said Agang SA had been doing its own research and had commissioned other studies.

Agang SA has so far concentrated its efforts in Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, where Ramphele has addressed meetings and appointed provincial organisers.

At the party’s official launch in Pretoria yesterday, party strategists said they were targeting the entire country.

“All provinces are key battle provinces. This party will fight elections in all nine provinces,” said political director Moeketsi Mosola, a former Congress of the People member and ex-CEO of SA Tourism.

Mosola said data from previous elections would direct their strategy, but he wouldn’t elaborate.

The party will be targeting the youth vote, women as well as those in rural areas.

About 5?000 people turned up to the rally yesterday and the Tshwane Events Centre’s small stadium was half-full.

Mosola said it was mostly members who attended and those who would form the core campaign group.

He said: “We leave here with 5?000 members registered on our database.”

A visit to Ramphele’s home village of Uitkyk in Limpopo yesterday revealed that many of her neighbours had travelled to Pretoria and many homes were locked.

A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said “they left very early in the morning. They were taken by buses and taxis.”

Ramphele yesterday announced Agang SA’s campaign team is headed by campaign director Nkosinathi Solomon, who recently joined the party from Absa.

Soko, a former academic, will take care of policy; former newspaper editor Thabo Leshilo is director of communication; former Open Society Foundation director Zohra Dawood is fundraising director; Rorisang Tshabalala is deputy director of field management; and Vanessa Hani will focus on mobilising women.

Ramphele announced that Agang SA would have an elective conference towards the end of the year and promised that many “experienced parliamentarians and battle-hardened activists would join our national and provincial leadership in the coming months”.

Young people at the rally said they were there in the hope that Ramphele would bring about changes that will give them jobs.

Ndivhuwo Tshaduli (24) from Pretoria, said “now I have a degree, but I’m struggling to get a job. I’m hoping she will help me do something to get a job.”

Her friend, Junior Mofomme (28), is in the same situation.

She said she’d been unemployed since 2005 and she wanted someone to help her get a job.

“I want her to help me get a job,” she said. She said she’d been voting for the ANC and saw what they did wrong. Ramphele would improve on this, she said.

Jeminah Boroto (54) from Limpopo said it was the first time she had travelled this far from home.

She said she wanted to come to see what was happening.

“I don’t understand English, so I didn’t understand the speech, but I feel it in my blood that it is good. I love it.”

»?Additional reporting by Sipho Masondo

Who will give their vote to Ramphele?

Agang SA might get Wits student Mfuneko Toyana’s vote.

“(Ramphele) seems to be putting emphasis on government that is based on thorough knowledge of the country’s problems, and she seems like she knows what it’s like to govern in the modern world.”

Other opposition parties won’t get her vote. “Other parties have not been able to make a difference with the votes they received, so I would not give them more votes.”

Toyana believes Agang has a chance.

“Once you get past the petty politics and the mudslinging, you realise that her policies are different. She puts a lot of emphasis on making government technocratic and she has not based her campaign on some nostalgia for the struggle.”

And importantly, “she has never been a political (person); she was an activist. Her campaign is devoid of the racialism that other parties stoop to, to convince black people to vote for them”.

Nicole da Silva, a Wits radio staff member and 5FM DJ, says she will be considering voting for Agang, but “I need to see if she (Ramphele) gains more traction by the time we vote. You don’t want to waste a vote on a party that does not stand a chance.”

Da Silva likes Ramphele’s platform: “She puts a lot of importance on education, unlike the ANC and the DA, which are about jobs and service delivery. If you fix education, you’ve fixed everything.”

She doesn’t give Ramphele much of a chance, though. “The majority of South Africans see educated people as arrogant, and she is highly educated and intelligent. She won’t get the support she needs because she doesn’t speak from where they are at.”

Maria Monama“will definitely vote for Mamphela Ramphele”.

She says she should have been at the launch, but couldn’t as she had no one to look after her grandchild.

Monama has been voting for the ANC since 1994 and has no issues with the governing party.

But she says she will vote for Agang as Ramphele is different from other politicians, and will not “lie and steal from us like others”.

Monama lives a stone’s throw away from Ramphele’s home village of Uitkyk in Senwabarwana, just outside Polokwane.

“Ramphele is our own and she will look after us.”

She doubts though that Agang will be able to upset the ANC in the polls next year.

But Ramphele will be able to fix the village’s most pressing issues – roads and water – and it would be silly to support other political parties instead of Ramphele, she adds.


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