Ramphele seeks grassroots base

Johannesburg – Pundits in South Africa are wondering what impact, if any, the impending launch of a new party led by activist Mamphela Ramphele will have on the country’s political landscape.
Ramphele last month launched Agang, calling it a “political platform” that would “build the country of our dreams” and “declare war on corruption”.
That “platform” could soon become a full party and is likely to contest the 2014 elections. Ramphele indicated the Agang party launch would most likely be in June.
“Agang” is a Sesotho word that means “let’s build”
This past week, Ramphele received the backing of Queen Bessie Maake of Bakgaga-ba-Maake in Lenyenye, just outside Tzaneen in Limpopo Province.
The 85-year-old Queen’s Kraal was Ramphele’s first stop on her second day of campaigning in Limpopo.
Analysts say she is trying to establish some sort of grassroots base after she was roundly criticised for taking a rather elitist approach.
Queen Maake welcomed Ramphele in Lenyenye back in the 1970s when she was banished by the apartheid government between 1973 and 1977 for her participation in the Black Consciousness Movement alongside liberation hero Steve Biko, with whom she had a child.
Ramphele described her memories of Lenyenye as “bitter and sweet”. Bitter because she arrived in the area during one of the most difficult times in her life, but sweet because the villagers treated her as one of their own.
Her media liaison officer, John Allen – a former journalist and who previously worked with Archbishop Desmond Tutu – said the Limpopo visit was the launch of the consultative process that would lead to the formation of a political party.
However, opposition parties have voiced displeasure at Ramphele’s plans.
The Democratic Alliance’s Lindiwe Mazibuko told AFP last month that she was wary of a new opposition party as it could fragment non-ANC voters and draw support away from her own party.
The ANC has reacted calmly, simply saying it will continue with its own projects and wait to see what Ramphele and company would do.

March 2013
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