Agang: the comic relief SA needs

2014-07-06 15:00

Mamphela Ramphele will forgive me, but I find the goings-on in Agang SA really, really funny.

I shouldn’t, but I do. Each unfolding chapter in the saga renders the party more comical than the Congress of the People – and its leader as great a source of amusement as Amichand Rajbansi in his heyday.

She may not have the classic Rajbansi one-liners, but her attempts to sound like a real politician make her very amusing.

The past week has been particularly entertaining. Last Sunday, the party’s deputy president, Andries Tlouamma, convened a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) in Alexandra, where those present passed a vote of ­no confidence in Ramphele.

Ramphele was suspended pending a disciplinary hearing and the party’s chairperson, Mike Tshishonga, who is also one of its two MPs, was appointed acting president.

While the meeting was in progress, Ramphele’s faction rushed to court, where they successfully interdicted the gathering from going ahead. The Tlouamma lot also dashed to court, reversed the interdict and proceeded with the meeting.

On Monday, the Ramphele clique announced that it had “taken a decision to expel the ringleaders” of the attempted “coup”.

This week’s drama followed a postelection period in which Tshishonga and Ramphele had laid charges and countercharges of fraud against each other related to funds that had been deposited into the party’s account by the Independent Electoral Commission.

Also during this two-month period, Ramphele accused her party executives of being power hungry, dissolved the NEC and reconstituted it. But most NEC members refused to recognise this unilateral act, which is why they decided to go ahead with the Alexandra meeting without her.

Dear reader, I know that at this point your head is spinning furiously as you try to make sense of what pseudo-poet Mzwakhe Mbuli would call a mingle mash of a megamess. You probably need a break. So, pause and pour yourself a drink before proceeding.

The icing on the cake for this lowly newspaperman was Ramphele emerging from silence on Tuesday, and trying to sound lofty and leaderlike. “Agang is a dream for builders, not destroyers. Let the real builders please stand up and defend the dream?...?Usurpers are not builders. They need to be told loudly and clearly that they cannot reap where they have not sown,” she said, warning those who wanted to steal her little toy from her.

What is tragic about this statement is that Ramphele continues to believe that there are South Africans who still take her seriously. It is like one of those awkward social settings where a loudmouth holds forth on some subject while everyone else in the room sniggers. She is totally oblivious to the scorn being poured on her by supporters and detractors alike.

It is a far cry from the day in February 2013 when Ramphele stood at Constitution Hill and declared that she wanted to be “a bridge between my generation – those of us who fought for freedom?...?and that of my children”.

When launching Agang, she said it would “be a platform that will capture the best in us and enable us to transcend our divided past and work together as a society united in our diversity”.

“It is a platform that will seek to work with others to reduce the fragmentation in the political landscape and to realign politics towards a focus on putting the country first.”

Some hearts fluttered at the idea of a new formation led by a credible individual with a shiny struggle CV. Cynics warned that she was entering an Amazonian jungle, where she would be sharing the habitat with anacondas, piranhas, jaguars and other unforgiving animals. She would need to be well armed and travel in fearless company.

Ramphele ignored all counsel and entered the jungle with a motley crew who had no survival skills in such terrain. She was to learn the hard way that analysing jungle life and living it are two starkly different experiences.

From the promise of realigning politics, her immediate dream now is to hold on to control of Agang and rescue it from oblivion.

She is now a caricature. Her party is a comedy act. The “dream” is a nightmare.

But Ramphele being Ramphele, she will be deaf to the howls of laughter around her. She will plough on regardless and will ignore the fact that the realignment that she hoped to be the champion of, is happening anyway. It is happening to the left and to the right of the ANC, without her being a “bridge” of any sort. It may not be what she had in mind as part of her big dream, but it is very much in motion.

Right now, she and her party are just providing us with a riveting comedy show and adding absolutely nothing to political discourse. But then maybe in these times of low growth, downgrades and big strikes, it is exactly the relief we need.

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