Does Agang have space in South Africa’s political landscape?

2013-02-19 08:33

She is a tenacious human being, an academic, community activist, and a global public servant as many would know her. She never stopped being vocal on the state of our nation’s affairs, never ceased, and never desisted from fighting the revolutionary fight of liberating her fellow South Africans. Just like her late compatriot Steve Biko, she has forever remained a voice of the less and a flag-waver of her mother land.

The day that has been widely anticipated on the formation of a new political platform by Mamphela Ramphele has finally arrived, receiving mixed reactions across the spectrum. She has formally announced the formation of a political platform - Agang - which according to her will ‘rekindle hope that building the country of our dreams is possible in our lifetime’ as is evident in the name which simply means build in Sesotho.

Although much progress has evidently been registered with South Africa’s democracy, the challenge that still confronts the progression is precisely how to nurture and consolidate our so called democracy to translate into better living for all, something Mamphela hopes to achieve. But what are the odds of Agang engraving itself into the hearts of millions of South African voters? Mamphela Ramphele will face two main challenges. I explain these below.


Many South Africans across the spectrum remain ANC loyalists regardless of its notable failure to fully transform the economy to a better life for all. The party that put an end to apartheid has begun to lose its appeal among black South Africans, many of whom have grown frustrated waiting for the “better life for all” pledged when the party won historic elections 19 years ago. For many South Africans, the initial excitement has dissolved into distress as they struggle with high unemployment and a lack of housing, education, clean water and basic services they yearn for. Regardless of its problems and notable failures, it’s too early to suggest that the ANC will lose its dominance over South Africa’s political landscape anytime soon. Undoubtedly this dominance as it remains will be a limitation in Ramphele gaining significant inroads into SA’s political arena. However though, if the anger and dissatisfaction as we have seen in recent times continue to cultivate, this would boost the likes of Agang and the DA in a significant way. Of course projecting this to happen quick enough leading up to the 2014 elections would be too optimistic.


The DA has been steadily growing support and the pattern is playing out across the country. Most certainly a party’s true test remains at the ballot box and this is where the DA’s growth has been most dramatic. The last local government elections is proof of this. Though mostly perceived to be a white party by black voters, the DA’s face has plausibly changed with its leadership being more representative of SA’s demographics. Black South Africans are slowly starting to relate to a party that looks like them. With Cope’s leadership battles, this has boosted the DA’s prospects even further.


The principal challenge with Ramphele’s ambitious undertaking on entering South African politics is simply that it will take time to bear fruit and that’s a generic challenge in politics. She will need a bit of luck to survive the early going and will need to maintain keenness and a growing level of enthusiasm on the part of her middle-class base for an extended period of party-building. Winning a sizeable amount of votes to shake the ANC in next year’s elections easily looks like a presumable impossibility: the ANC remains dominant, and with SA being a young population, majority of young people don’t know who Dr Mamphela Ramphele is. The good doctor will require a powerful army of political compatriots and bring out enough supporters, not just regular supporters but people of prominence just like her if she is to gain a significant amount of votes in the 2014 elections.

If Agang is to remain relevant and have a constituency of its own, it need not necessarily be a competitor to the DA or COPE. It has to distinguish itself and fill a gap that exists in the current political landscape. On the upside, Ramphele’s arrival into South African politics can best be seen as permanent operational challenge to the ANC’s dominance.


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