Dr Ramphele is academically educated but Malema is politically educated

2013-11-23 17:29

The 2014 general elections will be hotly contested with over 200 parties that will be taking part in the provincial and national elections. There has been over 20 new political parties that have been registered with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) but out of these new parties the most fascinating to watch will be the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) led by Julius Malema and Agang SA led by Dr Mamphela Ramphele. Both the EFF and Agang SA are hoping to occupy the political space that the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the African National Congress (ANC) currently enjoy and most importantly attract voters. Between Dr Ramphele and Malema who will most likely shake up the political landscape when it comes to actual numbers? They were both born in Limpopo but have a vastly different background.

Dr Mamphela Ramphele, Agang SA leader credentials

Dr Mamphela Ramphele was born on 28 December 1947 in Bochum District in Limpopo. Dr. Ramphele qualified as a Medical Doctor at the University of Natal in 1972. She holds a Ph.D. degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Cape Town, a B.Com. in Administration from the University of South Africa and diplomas in Tropical Health and Hygiene and Public Health from the University of Witwatersrand.

She joined the University of Cape Town as a Research Fellow in 1986, and was appointed as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor five years later. In September 1996 she took up her post as Vice Chancellor, becoming the first black woman to hold this position at a South African university. She has received numerous prestigious national and international awards including 20 honorary doctorates acknowledging her scholarship, her service to the community and her leading role in raising development issues and spearheading projects for disadvantaged persons throughout South Africa. Dr Ramphele has held numerous executive and directorship positions in a number of companies including the World Bank.

Julius Malema, Economic Freedom Fighters Commander in Chief credentials

Julius Malema was born on 3 March 1981, in Seshego, Limpopo.  Malema, was raised by a single mother who worked as a domestic worker. Malema began his political career at a young age. He joined the Masupatsela (”Trailblazers”), a pioneer movement of the African National Congress (ANC) at the age of nine. He received military training at the age of 14, which led to him joining the ANC Youth League in 1994. At the age of 14, Malema was elected as both chairperson of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) branch in Seshego and the regional chair in 1995. Two years later in 1997, he became the chair of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) for the Limpopo province. In 2001, he was elected as the national president of COSAS. After he was elected into this position it forced him to move to Johannesburg to be close to the national offices of the student movement, which were housed in the ANC’s then headquarters at Shell House in Noord Street, close to the taxi rank.

By then the school books were well and truly forgotten due to his involvement in politics, despite the fact that Malema was still enrolled at Mohlakaneng High School in Seshego and registered to sit his matric examinations at the end of 2001. But Seshego was more than three hours away and the distance separated him from his classroom, Malema decided instead to attend a few classes at Prudence High School in Tladi, Soweto. Mostly, though, he stayed away from school altogether to pursue his political interests.

Malema still sat his matric at the end of that year, but fared badly and failed most of his subjects. He got a C in English, a D in history and an E in his mother tongue, sePedi, as well as in Afrikaans. There was an F in geography and a G in woodwork, both of them at standard grade. Malema’s matric results become a subject of discussion and he was ridiculed in the media. In his own defence, Malema says he never actually wrote the woodwork exam. Rather than not show up, “I just went in and wrote my name at the top of the exam and walked out” without writing another word, he says. Malema had failed that one exam against which so many people benchmark an individual’s academic ability.

Malema was elected as president of the ANCYL in April 2008, in a close race at a national conference held in Bloemfontein. Malema was re-elected as president of the ANCYL in June 2011 at the 24th ANCYL Conference held at Gallagher Estate in Johannesburg.

In 2010, Malema completed a two-year diploma in youth development through University of South Africa(UNISA). In 2011 he enrolled at UNISA for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and African languages. Malema has made efforts to advance his education but people still have the woodwork results engraved in their heads and judge his intellectual capabilities based on that one exam. In November 2011 he was suspended from his post as president of the African National Congress Youth League, and on 24 April 2012 he was officially expelled from the African National Congress.

Dr Ramphele versus Malema

On paper when one compares the two one would be inclined to believe that Dr Ramphele makes a better politician and would fare better at the polls come elections 2014. When Dr Ramphele announced the launch of her new political platform in February this year and said she would be going around the country “in consultation and listen” to what people want, there was much excitement and dawn of a new day in the media. Dr Ramphele enjoyed the media space as she was making headlines and practically became a media darling overnight. She enjoyed this space for weeks and was hailed as the inspirational leader that South Africa has been longing for as she would take this country forward to greater heights. Suddenly, out of nowhere along came young Julius Malema who was expelled from the ANC and his political obituary was long since written. He announced in June this year about launching an alternative outside of the ANC. The media dumped Agang SA like a hot potato as they grew tired and bored of the same message from the good doctor and Julius Malema took centre stage as he was making headlines with his calls for nationalisation of mines, banks and strategic sectors of the economy including expropriation of land without compensation.

As things stand now, according to Agang’s head of communications Thabo Leshilo, they have been frustrated by the media either not turning up at their events, or attending and not reporting much. “The media does not find our events terribly exciting. In order to get attention, we must be like Julius and say ridiculous things to get in the papers. We are not that kind of party,” Leshilo says.

He says the party is focusing on campaigning and building structures on the ground, which tends to be a drag for reporters. “They follow EFF everywhere because of the things they say. That’s the nature of the beast,” Leshilo laments. Such statements were not being uttered by Agang SA when they were the media darlings for weeks before Julius Malema came into the political scene again.

2014 Election Predictions for Agang SA and EFF

My personal favourite pass time of late is collecting the election prediction results from political pundits and so called “Political Sangomas”. The latest prediction which made me fall off my chair is one by Stephen Grootes, in his book “SA Politics Unspun”, he says the ANC will get 61%; Agang SA and EFF would get about 3% and 1% respectively. The rest of the predictions are as equally amusing and they are as follows:

Clearly it’s a free for all everyone is making wild guesses on how Agang SA and EFF will perform come elections 2014.  May I remind you that COPE which was formed about 4 months before the 2009 elections received 7.4% of the vote. They received that just merely by being present at the elections. Chris Moerdyk once said: “In the last elections [2009] Julius Malema appealed directly to these young and unemployed and entirely on his own he secured the single biggest block of votes for the ANC.  In fact, Malema pulled in 18% of the total vote cast.”

Agang SA and EFF elections strategy

When Dr Mamphela Ramphele launched her party Agang SA; she brought in that the same team that helped US President Barack Obama to victory in 2008 in belief that this team will help them do well in next year’s general elections. Agang SA appointed the Benenson Strategy Group to advise them on elections strategy as they believed that they were the best that Agang SA could find.

Furthermore, Dr Ramphela believed that social media such as Facebook and Twitter would be important tools in their election campaign. “You can multiply your troops very quickly on social media,” Dr Ramphele once told reporters. She added that, “we have a team of dedicated professionals. Thank God for information technology.” When you search for the official Agang SA Facebook account you will note it has about 29 000 followers.  Dr Mamphela Ramphela's Twitter account has about 27 000 followers. Malema announced his intention to start EFF in June, just four months ago. This was four months after the launch of Dr Mamphela Ramphele’s Agang SA. However, the popularity of the EFF' on Facebook has grown significantly and considerably surpassed that of Agang SA. Actually, EFF now has the highest number of followers on Facebook than all other political parties of South Africa. The EFF's Facebook accounts Economic Freedom Fighters and Fighters Rallying Behind Commander in Chief Julius Malema  together have over 120 000 followers.  Julius Malema 's Twitter account has close to 400 000 followers. The EFF has launched political structures across South Africa and the structures range from Branch Command Teams (BCT); Regional Command Teams (RCT); Provincial Command Teams (PCT) and lastly, the Central Command Team (CCT) on a national level. The EFF has made efforts to launch these structures throughout every town, village, township and informal settlement across South Africa. EFF foot soldiers can easily be identified wearing their signature “red beret.”

Agang SA had its official public launch on 22 June 2013 at the Tshwane Events Centre’s small stadium where about 5000 people showed up to listen  to Dr Mamphela Ramphela and the stadium was half-full. The EFF had its official public launch months later in Marikana on 08 October 2013 and over 20 000 people turned out to hear what Julius Malema had to say.

Final analysis

When Dr Mamphela Ramphele first made pronouncements that she would be launching a new political platform many people were excited and said she would bring about change in politics as she had an impressive resume and highly educated. In contrast with Julius Malema who is a “demagogue” uneducated and failed woodwork in high school. So many people had written Julius Malema off after he was expelled from the ANC.  Malema is only 32 years and by far is the most popular politician in South Africa after Nelson Mandela.

Julius Malema rise to power reminds me of Jacob Zuma in 2005 when he was relieved of his duties as Deputy President of SA due to his implication in the corruption scandal that found Shabir Shaik guilty. Most people had written him off and no one thought he would ascend to power and be the president of SA in 2009. Jacob Zuma only has a Standard three but he managed to oust a Sussex University graduate Thabo Mbeki out of power. Jacob Zuma did not get to where he is today out of sheer luck, but it is because he is politically astute. Like a phoenix Julius Malema has risen from the ashes which his detractors thought they had buried him for good. Malema might not have fancy doctoral degrees like Dr Mamphela Ramphele but he far outweighs her when it comes to politics and being politically educated around South African politics. The numbers will speak for themselves come elections 2014. You can call Julius Malema all kinds of names but I challenge anyone to achieve the political successes that this 32 year old man has achieved in his life.

Dr Mamphela Ramphele is still struggling to be a seasoned politician like Julius Malema. She is just an academic-in-politics and has not really transcended to be being a powerful politician. Julius Malema is a product of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, as she taught him public speaking and how to be confident in a crowd. Mama Madikizela-Mandela groomed Malema in the art of politics and rebellion. He would spend hours in her company, and often days at her Soweto home, where he found shelter through thick and thin. Mama Winnie once said,  “his rebellious attitude is part of the process of growing up,” she added that, “he will make a great leader one day.” Now Julius Malema has wider appeal as a politician a great orator and a charismatic leader. The battle line has been drawn, 2014 elections will reveal if South Africans are impressed by doctoral degrees or by a young man who calls a spade a spade. Let the games begin!!

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