Mamphela Ramphele to stand against Zuma
Opposition party hoping to attract black South Africans in presidential poll
Anti-apartheid activist Mamphela Ramphele hugs Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille at a news conference in Cape Town yesterday. Photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters
The Democratic Alliance yesterday unveiled Mamphela Ramphele as its presidential candidate in this year’s general election, a move the opposition party hopes will attract black South Africans to its banner when voters go to the polls.
Dr Ramphele (66), the partner of late black consciousness leader Steve Biko, a respected anti-apartheid activist and a successful academic and businesswoman, formed a new political party AgangSA, last year.
The party has struggled to gain traction despite her impressive credentials, and it will now merge with South Africa’s main opposition in a bid to better challenge the African National Congress at the elections scheduled for April.
Until recently the Democratic Alliance has been viewed as a party that is too white by the South African electorate, because of its historical links to the apartheid regime, and the fact that the majority of its senior leaders were white.
However, a number of impressive young black leaders have been rising through its ranks in recent years, and its support base has expanded on the back of this and the relatively good governance it has displayed in the Western Cape province, of which it has control.
Dr Ramphele said the deal between the two parties was a bid to finally consign race politics to the dustbin.
“This is a historic moment. We are going to take away the excuse of race and challenge the ANC to be judged on its performance. We are taking away that race card and putting it in the dustbin.”
She added that she was “honoured” to accept the Alliance’s invitation to front its campaign, saying: “I believe that this decision is in the best interests of South Africa as we head into turbulent waters.”
While the development will help to make the general election this year more interesting – as will the presence of former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters party – the ANC is still expected to emerge victorious.
Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said “I know Mamphela as a principled, fiercely determined person who loves our country very deeply . . . I can think of no better person to be our presidential candidate in this crucial, tipping point election”.
Dr Ramphele predicted this year’s elections would prove a watershed moment in South African politics as many people who felt morally obliged to vote for the ANC would no longer do so following the recent death of former president Nelson Mandela.
She added the repeated booing last month of President Jacob Zuma, who has been embroiled in numerous scandals since taking office in 2009, by a significant section of the crowd attending Mandela’s memorial service had shown the ANC could no longer ride on his legacy.
“The people who were booing at the FNB stadium were saying the emperor has no clothes,” she said.