Zille And Ramphele: A Fling Full Of Despotism

2014-02-04 10:02

Image by: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Lulama Zenzile

I was really trying to take a break from South African politics in my writing as the ambiguously anticipated 2014 National Elections draw nearer. During a time like this, almost every statement or action may be critically judged as either political or containing political nuances.

It must have been like a dream the way my cousin knocked on my door with the outrageous news that newly formed Agang SA’s leader Mamphela Ramphele was to stand as presidential candidate…. for the Democratic Alliance. That certainly attracted media attention on a viral scale for days.

Deliberations went on over all the developments that come with such drastic and dramatic moves on the (black & white) chessboard of politics. Being on the ground and connected to the people and their voices, I inquired from several Agang members, who were by all means stunned, if not disillusioned. Their initial assumption was their new-born party was now no more, something which Dr Ramphele was much at pains to clarify as untrue.

I then spoke to my white friends from the DA, expecting all kinds of unpleasant remarks about this apparent merger with Agang. ‘We think it’s a great move. It gives all of us a strong voice as opposition against these incompetent and corrupt ANC guys. We support Mamphela completely,’ they said. I thought to myself, ‘This country keeps getting weirder and weirder’, because they were anything but bewildered.

So I went on my way processing some of these enigmatic acts and opinions, but I wasn’t really making progress. It’s almost like a psychiatrist trying to make sense out of a psycho’s dark utterances. But my main concern, which was not raised by either of the two parties' members, was the consultation part by the leadership, before these mergers were suddenly proclaimed.

I think for Agang members the news must have felt like when your child suddenly announces she is getting married in a month, to someone you haven't even met yet. I always knew in my mind that Agang and DA were pretty closely related, but I never thought they were this compatible. Like you could just have Helen Zille cross-over into Agang and become acting president while Dr Ramphele flew off to France for fundraising or something.

Ramphele and Zille have been known to flirt quite often actually – and that’s metaphorically speaking by the way. That they would end up in the same bed was only a matter of time and not possibility. But once Mamphela found her ‘true love’ in Agang SA and got hitched, everyone had thought it was truly over between the two. Until last week’s paralysing shocker that is…

As literates often say, the ink had hardly dried about the new appointment when Mamphela abruptly announced the union had been cancelled actually. So if you were a journalist who had taken precious time to research and write a beautiful article about this co-opting and were just about to publish then you were utterly screwed. You just had to start afresh with a new perspective, incorporating also the equally appalling180 degree turn advancement.

My greatest concern as I hinted is the lack of consultation with the membership and the supporters in this whole colossal ignominy by both Zille and Ramphele. Perhaps this is a sign of lack of democratic principles in our so called democratic political organisations. For all I care, Agang could form a merger with Freedom Front if they wished, but it has to be the membership’s decision, not the leaders’.

Both Agang and DA have very much agile and robust social media platforms which were supposed to be utilised to consult the membership during the proposal phase of this short-lived union, instead of only doing so after signing papers and shaking hands, or in this case kissing.

I gather very much from my own review that it was Zille who made the first move and sent an ‘indecent proposal’ to Ramphela. Having found lots of common ground, the two should have then taken the matter to their respective leaderships and most importantly their supporters for inputs and opinions. A poll or a referendum of a kind should have therefore been initiated so to generate dialogue and understanding before great decisions were taken.

Some people have justified the authoritarian or despotic nature of these two leaders’ brief affair as a sign of great leadership. But in my books, great leadership is about proper communication and consultation between the leadership and the man on the ground. No matter how intelligent or wise leaders think they are, they still have to consult and fully involve their followers in all decisive issues. ©

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