Inside a flawed, politically ambitious mind

2013-02-17 10:00

An imminent announcement by Dr Mamphela Ramphele is awaited in some circles with bated breath.

She is coming across as the “new hope” and the custodian of democracy, which is apparently under threat from the out-of-control governing ANC.

Yet we must ask what drives her in this epoch to leave the comfort of her wealth, her prestige, her globetrotting veneration and her academic plaudits to enter the muddy world of party politics.

Ramphele in many ways represents the epitome of what is called a successful African or black woman – one who has the right political lineage, is an astute academic, an activist, a former political prisoner, a major benefactor of the ANC-led transition from apartheid to democracy and a high-flying corporate eagle.

That sounds like just the right ingredients to make a potential politician.

But the truth is she has been on a long campaign of testing pulses for her political launch.

Her strategy is spearheaded by the barking out of insults at the ANC-led administration.

Her campaign moves from a premise that South Africa needs rescuing from a type of “barbarian and banana republic” ethos, where sanity is absent and intellect has absconded.

Her focus is consolidated in the soliciting of sentiment from youth, women and the much-acclaimed intellectuals who are apparently sidelined by the current ANC.

Her message: “I did not fight for this” is, however, personalising the people’s struggle as her own.

Ramphele shares a love affair with some media houses that prove useful for a political campaign draped in social dialogue.

The media has the capacity to make and break you, and one Julius Malema is a case in point.

Her book, Conversations with My Sons and Daughters, is the entrée to her claim.

She will have a dialogue with the youth, predicated on the understanding that they are not listened to.

For a while, Ramphele flirted with the matriarch of the opposition, Helen Zille, who has been in political affairs or rumoured affairs with virtually anything anti-ANC.

Two important things about Ramphele's strategy are: firstly, she accepted that the future is the youth, rightfully so. Judging herself as beyond middle-aged, she needed to connect with the youth.

And secondly, her strategy assumed that the public sentiment would sway in her favour, as she hopes to cash in on the despondency of a potential youth constituency.

Indeed, it is a clever strategy that could pay off, but in my assessment only as another opposition party.

The challenge for her lay in the fact that she did what Minister Tokyo Sexwale attempted late last year, seeking to run an individual campaign.

These kind of campaigns fall outside the definition of South Africa’s political electioneering process.

Ramphele’s hide-and-seek and media-drummed campaign needs more than sentiment.

It needs more than conversations.

It needs real issues that prove that the current National Development Plan is not viable.

She must convince South Africans that she has a policy-development capacity that is better than the existing policy platform.

Her constituency is an assumed one – very difficult to dissect.

On the one hand, they pretend to be heroes of yesteryear while they also pretend to be youth.

Her constituency, it is claimed, are ordinary people, yet that cannot be the case because Ramphele is calibrated to an elitist agenda.

It is said she represents women, in particular black women, yet that claim is spurious since the current government has made bold strides to place women in positions of power.

To confirm this, the ANC’s strong embrace of a 50/50 gender share of power, which has again found mention in this week’s state of the

nation address, is on track.

If Ramphele’s hope is that she will speak as the voice of reason from the world of capital, she simply cannot be more legitimate than the current ANC deputy president of the Cyril Ramaphosa.

In the end, it is my submission that Ramphele is about to discover herself.

At times, an enlarged view of self warrants a mirror that will help you to see your correct size.

She has no clear-cut constituency.

She cannot claim black intellectuals as her entrée.

They are so scattered and confused by what the liberalist agenda has offered them.

They sound more like the stuck record of professors Sibusiso Ndebele and Jonathan Jansen who can never write a definition for a working South Africa post apartheid.

Ramphele cannot claim a historic black consciousness doorkeeper role, for this is nonexistent or watered down by the neo-Bikoists like Andile Mngxitama, who is causing harm to the true legacy of Steve Biko.

She cannot claim the poor as her constituency. In the words of author Mark Gevisser, “she is disconnected” in many ways, for the poor have made their choice.

If she, therefore, will fish, it will be in the troubled DA and confused Cope ponds and that will make her another opposition party.

»? Ramalaine is an independent observer

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