Mamphela Ramphele speaks at the news conference for Agang. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)
THE launch of a new political party in South Africa, to be led by anti-apartheid activist and academic Dr Mamphela Ramphele, is long awaited.
It holds the prospect of evading many blunders made by South African political parties and making a renewed start in politics.
There are about 14 political parties represented in South Africa’s parliament today and they seem unable to shake the ruling ANC, which among other things has been accused of misruling the country over the past 18 years.
A feasible political party agenda is not as complex as many people may think. It actually only involves attaining the basic principles of the constitution.
South Africa’s two most critical flaws in party politics are muddy election campaign funding and the absence of internal democracy in the different organisations.
Cloudy election funding points to extensive corruption and destroys the good standards and behaviour of individuals in society.
Lack of internal democracy leads to party authority getting into the hands of a few powerful people. This means party politics gets secluded from the general ambitions and desires of party members.
This has been the case with most of the parties that broke away particularly from the ANC. Many experts believe that the president of the ANC is an all-powerful person, more powerful than the national executive committee. But this might not be true and is a debate for another day.
Both tendencies (corrupt campaigning and lack of internal democracy) go profoundly against democratic principles.
Ramphele’s Agang party political platform, which will assume a new name later after consultations, has the historic opportunity of beginning with a spotless record on both counts.
The new party should receive aid and funding in a transparent fashion. It should also put together events aimed at raising party money.
Agang would do well to create internet-linked payment systems while endorsing open proof of how much is in the party kitty, what the money has been used on and also what it is intended for.
Ramphele, 65, has been actively involved in non-political matters in South Africa since the all-important elections in 1994.
Her creation of Agang to challenge the storied but increasingly criticised ANC during next year’s elections has been looked at with keen interest by foe and friend alike.
She said Agang - meaning "let's build" in the Sepedi language – would "declare war on corruption" and focus on rekindling the hopes poor South Africans held when apartheid crumbled 19 years ago.
"Our country is at risk because self-interest has become the driver of many of those in positions of authority who should be focused on serving the public," the London Telegraph quoted Ramphele, a former World Bank MD and trained medical doctor, as saying.
"Corruption, nepotism and patronage have become the hallmarks of the conduct of many in public service," she said, according to the influential UK newspaper.
The former University of Cape Town vice-chancellor also called for a turnaround in education.
This brings us to the following point. The argument doing the rounds at dinner parties and in South Africa’s universities, township shebeens and taverns is that a new party with a different agenda based on honesty and benefiting the people is the most needed one.
However, a pivotal subject is the sustainability of a new entrant on the local political scene, especially in a political system that already has 14 parties of which a couple have concerns similar to those outlined by the leader of the new party.
South Africa’s political universe is already congested.
But I believe political parties endure and prosper when they connect to the social wants of society's manifold levels.
A new party is required to defend itself by launching a belief system that distinguishes it from all other political parties.
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