Black consciousness activist sets up party to take on the ANC


Ramphele reported to be raising funds for the forming of a new political party

Anti-apartheid heavyweight Mamphela Ramphele is reportedly about to offer the South African electorate an opportunity many have been seeking for years – a chance to vote for a political party untainted by the country’s past.

South Africa’s Sunday Press has announced that Ms Ramphele, Black Conscious Movement founder Steve Biko’s partner until he was murdered by police in 1977, has decided to enter into politics to “save her country”.

A successful business woman and one of the country’s most respected civil society activists, Ms Ramphele went to the US earlier this month, where she told a high profile audience she was raising funds for a political party.

Plan to shake up politics

The newspaper quoted former Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Tony Leon as saying two people who attended her meetings told him independently about Ms Ramphele’s intentions to shake up South Africa’s political landscape.

“One of these meetings was in Boston, where she spoke at the residence of South African-born [retired] Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Margaret Marshall,” Mr Leon had reportedly said.

“A friend of mine from South Africa was there. She said Ramphele was starting a political party and she was there to raise money.”

In recent years Ms Ramphele has been a strong critic of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party under its current president Jacob Zuma.

In November she accused the party of treating voters like children, saying every time an election came round they appealed to them to vote for the movement because it of its past victories and links with Nelson Mandela.

A month earlier in her new book Conversations with my Sons and Daughters she outlined how successive ANC governments have betrayed the nation for a culture of impunity, where corruption amongst its elites goes unchecked.

A year ago she was courted by South Africa’s main opposition party, the DA, but refused their advances, saying she was not a joiner of political parties.

A medical doctor in her early adult years, Ms Ramphele has spent the majority of her life championing civic activism, human rights, education, and a value-centric approach to politics.

She was managing director of human development at the World Bank at one stage, and also the vice-chancellor at the University of Cape Town.

She is also a close friend of former Irish president Mary Robinson.

Another five years for Zuma

But it appears the ANC’s decision last December to give Mr Zuma another five years in power, which means he will most likely be reappointed South Africa’s president in 2014, has prompted the high profile leader to seek systemic change from within the political system.

South African voters’ desire for an alternative to the current crop of political parties that dominate the landscape was made patently obvious in 2008 when a group of disaffected ANC politicians broke away from the ruling party to form their own movement.

With less than six months to prepare for the 2009 general election, the fledgling Congress of the People party secured nearly 7.5 percent of the national vote.

However, since then the party has imploded due to infighting, leaving a gap which many hope Ms Ramphele’s party will fill.

Although yet to comment on her intentions, Ms Ramphele has indicated she will do so in the near future.