Following various media reports there was much speculation about Mamphela Ramphele entering politics. This was further fuelled by her not completely denying this. Instead she said: “I have always been clear in articulating my views on matters of public importance and will speak on my own behalf about any decisions I might take about my future engagements.”
Without a doubt a new political party is needed. We lack alternatives — stuck between a self-destructing ANC and the protector of white privilege, the DA.
But it’s disappointing to see how the politics of redemption once more come to life. Some spoke of a ”saviour”. Many of my Facebook friends welcomed the news and went as far as saying they would join any party headed by Ramphele. The same sentiments were expressed on other social networks.
On the surface it’s understandable why some would be keen to have the good doctor leading a political party. Not only was she an anti-apartheid activist but is a doctor and successful businesswoman. She is an academic with a bachelor of commerce degree in administration from the University of South Africa, a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Cape Town and diplomas in tropical health, hygiene and public health from the University of the Witwatersrand, not to mention the numerous honorary degrees she holds. Ramphele has broken new ground many a time. Not only was she the first black woman to be appointed as a vice-chancellor at a South African university, she was also the first African to be a managing director of the World Bank following her appointment in 2000. There is no doubt that Ramphele is a remarkable woman that has achieved a lot but being an achiever on its own is, to me, not sufficient reason to merely follow.
The political and economic situation in South Africa increasingly seems to be leading some to approve anything perceived to be ”better” than what we currently have. This is a very dangerous practice because focusing on personalities distracts us from the core issues affecting us all. In the past we saw Nelson Mandela touted as our ”saviour” — the man who liberated South Africa. This focus on a personality allowed many to ignore that the revolution did not complete its manifestation, as proven by the state of the majority of black people in current South Africa. Even before the ANC took over and became the governing party, the revolution had been undone. The full reach of apartheid was not fully dismantled and the after-effects can still be felt in today’s class struggles. History decided who would be in which class. The co-opting of the few cannot and should not blind us to this.
Politics can easily be hijacked, not only by the corrupt but also by us ordinary people who lose sight of the issues at hand and choose to follow personalities instead. There are many lessons that should be taken not only from South Africa’s ”liberation” but also the ANC’s Polokwane conference and the ”asijiki”’ crowd prior to the much anticipated Mangaung conference. We need to stop worshipping personalities and ask the hard questions.
Instead of discussing Ramphele as an individual our discussions about the possible party should evolve into something more.
What vision does the party have for South Africa and how does it aim to achieve it? How does this vision make me feel? What are the implications of this vision for society at large? What role, if any, can I play in taking this vision forward? These are but a few of the questions that we should be asking prior to jumping on board with any political party — even if only based on speculation.