Koketso Moeti
Koketso Moeti

Is Ramphele SA’s new saviour?

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.

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    • Honkie Tonk

      Agree with the last three paragraphs 100%.

    • Lourend Carl LuRock

      DA the protector of white privilege? Is that the only description you could think of? With so many black and coloured supporters? You sound like a racist Koketso.

    • GrahamJ

      “…the protector of white privilege, the DA…”

      I stopped reading at that point. I want to read intellectual discussion, not mindless drivel.

    • http://n/a lesego

      if she starts a political party she will expose n compromise herself as she will fail dismally e.g ur bantu holomisa’s,COPE n generally opposition parties r all passengers to Anc.I dnt doubt her credebilities bt opening up an opposition party is gna be a herculean task so rather take up an existing opposition party n grow it

    • Mr. Direct

      I don’t think it matters at all what she stands for.

      You see, there is no reason for anybody to change, because the enemy is known, and the struggle continues.

      And all the sheep follow, follow, follow, until perhaps they realise that the sheep dog is in fact the big bad wolf. Too late….

    • The Creator

      Well, that’s precisely what the powers that be don’t want. Ramphele is being put forward as a saviour, a kind of counter-Ramaphosa.

      It’s also worth remembering that while she was indeed the first black vice-chancellor of a university, she worked closely together with her assistant Helen Zille in demolishing trade unions at UCT, and she worked closely together with her assistant Wilmot James in weakening the status of academics. It is hardly surprising that UCT is now probably the biggest bastion of white privilege among all universities.

      And after that, she went off to the World Bank in 2000, just as they were firing Stiglitz for being too friendly to Third World countries. I think we all know what the World Bank’s record is and how Ramphele has functioned as a black-painted figleaf there.

      No, what we need are not saviours. What we need are new ideas. Or the redeployment of old ideas. Getting fake saviours is what we particularly don’t need — but of course that’s what we’re having forced down our throats.

    • -Sterling Ferguson

      @Creator, Moeti has jumped the gun because Dr. Ramphele has even announced anything about the platforms of the new party.

    • ntozakhona


      The ANC has recognised in its Mangaung conference that there is a lack of understanding of the SA revolution especially among young people. Indeed a massive political education campaign is neccessary to ensure that in pursuit of some ideals motivated by disenchantment they end up giving the country back to greedy colonialists.

      Our understanding of a revolution is not violence and mayhem where the victors emerge from the rubble with nothing but AK47s in the air. From the onset we have sought to bring about a peaceful transformation of society and had to balance the national and international balance of forces. We had to contend with the fact that SA racist capital is closely tied to western capital that instructs us and the rest of the world not to buy Iranian oil. Our BRICS membership is not just a fancy move but ensuring an international environment supportive of radical transformation at home obtains.

      One would like to see young people engaging with these and other issues rather than sloganeering about the romantic notions of a revolution Malema style albeit in much more saner tones.

    • http://carbonsmart.com Rory

      Two points. One is that even if you think the DA is a protector of white privilege, that doesn’t mean it can’t change if someone like Ramphele becomes a leader within the DA, or if the opposition parties become a block and create a more formal amalgamation.

      The second is that I don’t believe Ramphele’s popularity is based on “personality”, or even on her formal qualifications. For me, at least, it is based on character: her speaking the truth, having integrity and proposing very concrete policy positions. She has said far more on policy than many senior politicians, and she has been consistent.

    • ntozakhona


      It needs to be said the SA revolution is transitional. We seek to redress the injustices of the past through fair and legal means. The assumption of government power is just another means of furthering the revolution.

      We are using government to transform the state that it serves all our people. To enact laws that will deal with inequality and uneployment. BBBEE. Employment Equity, Skills Development Act, Preferential Procurement Act are just a few of the laws enacted to effect revolutionary changes. Of course there have been chalenges of implementation and fronting, The emphasis in the next decade will not be on policy formulation but on implementation and tightening of policy to punish those who seek to undermine the law.

      The National Development Plan is revolutionary as is its National Health Insurance component. What is needed are intellectuals like yourself whp will inform our people of these in the face of a hostile medis to ensure that our people assert these as their right. In any case as a student of change you should know that revolutions are the work of the masses, governments can only do so much.

    • ntozakhona


      There is a need to remind all that the revolutionary path chosen by the main liberation movement ( probably the only one remaining after AZAPO and PAC agrred to be led by the DA) is transtional. It is the path is has not deviated from since 1912. The adoption of armed struggle was reluctant and was forced on it by brutal repression. Some of us were militarised as young people not because we were violent but options were closed by the murderous regime.

      The assumption of government power is not the end of the revolution but the beginning of a phase where govt will be an instrument of liberation from economic and political bondage. BBBEE, Emplyment Equity Act, Skills Development Act, Basic Conditions Of Employment Act are just a few of the laws designed to bring about revolutionary change. There are and there have been challenges of implementation and perhaps intellectuals like you need to assist in ensuring that our people assert these laws as their right,

      My opinion is that our revolution slowed down when we demobilised our people by hailing the Big Chief as the only one who is intelligent. As a student of change I am sure you know that revolutions are the work of the masses.

    • Tofolux

      @Koketso, in recording the list of academic credentials or even the World Bank appointment can you ask yourself what impact Mamphele has had on any of these institutions especially for Africa in particular? Even if you look at her tenure at UCT and apart from her employing madame Zille (who is responsible for unleashing one of the most brutal attacks on striking workers), her contribution to this institution was hardly felt by the students or the surrounding communities. UCT today grapples with issues of transformation and a pro-poor policy and that is a serious indictment especially when you say that she was an activist. This institution today could be mistaken for something which comes from Europe and this is a serious issue given its history of activism. But also, lets look at her tenure at the World Bank for instance and the location of her impact in bringing a people centred approach to this institution especially when one considers the developing world. There is no long lasting effect or change that has been brought to its policies in fact, I would contend that during her tenure the World Bank’s developmental agenda was one of non-development or anti-development especially in Africa.
      In my mind, Mamphele is nothing but an opportunist who has used Steve Biko’s name for her own end. Without the Steve Biko’s name, where would Mamphele be?

    • Hmmmmm?

      Ramphele could be something great for SA, but the country is filled with misogynists/chauvinists who will never accept her or vote for her.

      You speak of the DA being the protector of white privilege. I see them more as protectors of rates/tax payers. Somebody has to look out for the people who carry the tax burden. Colour has nothing to do with it.

    • The Creator

      By strange coincidence, the people being protected by the DA happen to be white. I suppose the reason why white people are so much richer than black people is lost in the mists of history . . .

    • tzME

      Come come Koketso. There is a subtle meaning to the word simple, used rarely, but very ‘telling’. You criticise the anc (notice the lower case?), the DA, and question Mamphele and whether she has the wherewithall to step into the breach! Indeed, the only accurate observation that caught my eye was your assessment of the anc and the self ‘destruct’ route.

      How about this for a Thought Leader!

      An organisation is only as good as it’s leadership!

    • Enough Said

      Mamphele Ramphele is too good for politics. The best thing she can do for South Africa is lead civil society and NGO’s.

      Every country needs a strong active civil society to keep government and political parties on their toes. A strong leader like Ramphele would have her wings clipped and her style cramped if she entered politics.

    • Deeno

      The real question is – do we actually need another face on our Ballot paper – And what Ramphele differentiates her from the rest?

      During the formation of COPE that many citizens saw some refreshing alternative to the ANC. The message that they sent was one of inclusivity ( by having leaders of different colour) – preaching Accountability, anti-corruption, morals etc. But more than a anything a refreshing new alternaive. – until their collapse.

      The DA’s problem is that they preach by critisizing and nagging at the ANC instead of telling what they really stand for. As if that’s what will win them more black votes.
      In the absense of their message they are being judged by their actions in the Western Cape. Where out 12 Million people going to bed hungry – most are in the Western Cape. Where most jobs are still held by whites – not to mention calling people REFUGEES?! How is that suppose to change the majority black person’s perception. It took them 20 years to appoint a person of colour in their very top structure!

      As long as Ramphele do not make these mistakes – and preach the message for what what she believes in for black and white- she will definately be appealling to more than only one section of our country.

    • Lennon

      @ Tofolux: The World Bank stint got my attention as well.

      Frankly, I don’t care for anyone who has held a top spot in the international banking cartel.

    • Comrade Koos

      The problem in South Africa is the gap between rich and poor, not between white and black or between ANC and DA.

      There are extremely wealthy blacks and whites, and struggling blacks and whites, but what is color, its skin deep?

      The DA are purer capitalists than the ANC. The ANC are dishonest capitalists, they claim to represent the previously disadvantaged while office bearers stuff their own mouths and pockets. The DA openly support global corporations while the ANC officials get most of the the financial kickbacks.

      It would be good to start reading comrade Karl Marx writings and stop fooling ourselves.

      Keep in mind that members of parliament (MPs) which the average voter votes for earns about eight to ten times more than the average (Marikana) miner, very roughly. And what are those MPs doing for the people working under-ground?

      MPs (mostly black) earn roughly thirty (30) times more than the new minimum farm wage – Lets not get onto cabinet ministers or the president!!!

      In South Africa we have class conflict not racial conflict.

    • Dillon

      Stop looking at other people to solve this country’s problems. Do what you can in your sphere of influence. Educate the people around on politics, ethics, propaganda, the media, etc. Look at your own indoctrination and decide whether it adds value or not. Be the change you wish to see.

      These “leaders” should be begging for your vote, so let them!!!!

    • ntozakhona


      A good leadership is a able to sell its policies to the target market (constituency) and that also depends on whether the policies are sellable. Zuma and ANC are on that score miles ahead of all Zille projects ( including Mamphele and Mazibuko)

    • DeeGee

      @ Tofolux: “….(who is responsible for unleashing one of the most brutal attacks on striking workers)”. Oh. So Zille ordered the police to shoot the striking miners at Marikana. Thank god you cleared that one up.

      I must say your political satire is brilliant!

    • Morena

      I am of the view that Dr Ramphele has the requisite gravitas to lead a political party and to attract substantial following and support, but she will need a much thicker skin to withstand the inevitable attack on her person by the ANC and its allies. She is however one of the few people with policy ideas that are not necessarily hinged on ANC policies. If she ever gets to form a political party or join one, her challenge is to make these policies easily understood and attractive to the man on the street. Besides the ANC is not about to give us a woman president any time soon.

    • Tofolux

      @Dg, maybe Gee dof would be better. It would certainly be very helpful for you to ask clarity or seek to understand before launching into a high-maintenance nonsensical ping-pong. I usually refrain from engaging with those who I know have absolutely no capacity to engage on a level that is constructive, informative or honest. Hence please accept apologies for not responding to stupidity.

    • Honkie Tonk


      So you judge Mamphele Ramphele by one set of standards and Jacob Zuma by another set. Its known as double standards, and vile whites are very critical of double standards.

    • ntozakhona

      Honkie Tonk

      I repeat, you are judged by your own standards, you are called by your own name. What are these double, triple standards red herring, every statement has a context to it.

    • -Sterling Ferguson

      @Ntozakhona, the leadership doesn’t have to sell their policies to the voters because the voter can’t elect them. This would be true if there were direct elections in SA and the voters could hold the officials accountable. This new party should be calling for direct elections in SA to make this country a democracy and not a fake democracy.

    • michael

      Ramphele will be undermined by the anc 24/7. She now steps into african politics which is ruthless and remember the anc see the world in black and white either against them or for them. Furthermore she is a woman which devalues her standing in society as exemplified by the president Mr Zuma which believes a man is worth five woman.

    • http://roryshort.blogspot.com/ Rory Short

      What very country needs, us included, is public figures who honestly try to say it like it is. Ramphele is like that, that is why she stands out from the crowd of self-serving individuals who comprise a very large proportion of our public figures. It would be a pity if she became a politician. Then people could say that she has this or that axe to grind and discount what she says.

    • -Sterling Ferguson

      @Michael, there are people that don’t like the ANC, but wouldn’t vote for the DA party.
      If Dr Ramphele starts a new party this party could very well take a lot of votes from the ANC. As a matter of facts, the DA party has forced the ANC to shift their position on a lot of issues. So, if Dr Ramphele starts a new party, you might see the ANC is moving in a different direction on many issues. In the US after Obama won his second term in office, the Republicans are moving in a different direction on many issues such as, immigration reforms. The ANC had tied the Hawks and the NPA hands on crime so, I think the ANC will be moving in a different direction on corruption.

    • Momma Cyndi

      What if she isn’t looking at a ‘new’ party but a coalition based on the old UDF? Other than Tutu, or possibly Manuel, there isn’t anyone else who could pull it off.

    • -Sterling Ferguson

      @Creator, I would love to see Zille, Ramphele and Zuma in a three way debate on their party policies.

    • michael

      Sterling I seriously hope that you are correct but i have a nagging feeling change for the anc will be very difficult and at best will be very slow if it indeed happens.The current crop of ministers and senior civil servants just do not have the skills to take the country forward and corruption has permeated the whole structure of society.They have all been thoroughly hosed down with a dose of old style socialism and communism so they are ideologically shackled.

    • Kwame Obonomaba

      What SA needs is not new political party as you suggested. Whether you like or not majority of South Africans see ANC as their party of choice and they aligned themselves to the ideals of the party. The party is entrenched in the political pyschy of the country given its history and liberation credentials. And if history is to be our guide then the Anc has another 20-30 years or more of staying power. The ANC as a party is not corrupt as many commentators want us to believe. The party’s manifesto is as revolutionary and liberating as it should be. The party’s economic and social policies have been and continue to be directed at the poor on paper at least. Implementation is another story as it is both complex and daunting. The current leadership of ANC is by and large devoid of deep thought and prone to populiarism. the leadership has all the good intentions but lack the intellectual depth and skills to execute. Given the likelihood that the ANC will be in power for considerable period of time, I will recommend swelling the rank of the party by all South Africans of every shade. Forming a new party is fundamentally not going to resolve the problems confronting the country today. dr Ramphele and her likes must rather join the ANC than forming a new party and initiate changes within. ANC must make every effort to bring South African intellectuals into its rank. Apart from her accusing the ANC of being corrupt, in all things her views are no different from the party.

    • Honkie Tonk


      You say Jacob Zuma’s womanizing is the African way, but Maphele Ramphele is an adulteress for her extra-marital relationship with Steve Biko.

      Do you think an eminent respected African like Archbishop Desmond Tutu would agree with you.

      I think not.

      With such double standards how do you expect those reading what you write to take you seriously?

    • -Sterling Ferguson

      @Kwame, in a democracy the people should decide if they want a new political party to represent them. You claimed that there is no corruption in the ANC, I think you are dreaming why is Shaik on medical parole? There is corruption going on all over the world but, in Africa the justice system is too weak to prosecute these people.

    • Kwame Obonomaba

      Ferguson, at least you admit there is corruption all over the world. I may agree with you the justice in Africa is too weak and politicized to prosecute. But where on earth is the judiciary truly independent? How many politicians in UK and US find themselves in prison when caught? The justice system anywhere is an extension of politics and politicians take care of themselves. I still maintain ANC as an organization is not corrupt but ANC politicians may be corrupt. Semantic ? May be. You can’t label the Catholic Church morally bankrupt just because tiny number of priests are child molestors. Shaik does not represent all things ANC. The DA party which you seem to be fond of has its share of corrupt politicians but won’t chacterise the party as corrupt. You are right to say in a democracy the citizens have right to form political parties. In SA we already have enough of these parties. And what purpose are they serving?

    • ntozakhona

      Honkie Tonk

      Tutu is an ANGLICAN prelate and would definately differ with me. Mandela on the other hand might take a different view. Remeber how he stood by Clinton, I must accept he might even be generous to Mamphele. All I am saying is that you are judged by your own standards, how can that be so wrong?

    • -Sterling Ferguson

      @Michael, In a democracy the people are supposed to take their show on the road and let the people make their choice. Obama took his show on the road and look what happened, he was elected president of the US. If SA is a democracy they should start acting like one, the parties have to earn their votes from the people.

    • ntozakhona

      Honkie Tonk

      As a South African inspired the ANC of Nelson Mandela, Jacob Zuma and Helen Joseph, a South African interested in real dialogue not some cheap dogma writ point scoring, I agonised on how to get through to you.

      The world has largely accepted that it is not immoral for an unmarried man to have sexual relations with an unmarried woman. Of hoe? When a sex videotape showing the not married ArchBishop Ncube of Zimbabwe having sexual relations with a woman was leaked to media, he fell on his sword. Why? He had set himself standards that were different from yours. Those who condemned him, including the papacy, cannot be accused of double or triple standards.

      Let us have the decency to be honest and not be victims to the liberal duplicity.

    • -Sterling Ferguson

      @Kwame, in the US if one is caught committing corruption all the parties will disown you. The president will not raise his hand to help that person because it will hurt him politically. In SA the there is nobody elected by the people and accountable to the people so, these people in the government don’t care about public opinion in SA. In the US, Obama doesn’t tell the FBI not to arrest people like what’s being done in SA. The opposition parties and media would destroy him. The prisons in the US are loaded with governors, mayors and congressmen for corruption and most of them have had their asset taken from them. When one goes on trial in the US, one is tried by a jury and not by a party appointed judge.

      The person that putted Selebi away was fired by the ANC and given a golden handshake by the government. In the US that person would have been a hero and he would be selling his movie rights to his story. In the US when one is working for the government and brought up on criminal charges, one has to pay for their own legal defense and the government pays nothing. The corruption that goes on in SA is caused by the ruling party the ANC and they are the root of all the problems. You sound like you are in love with political parties, I am against any parties that is hurting the country.

    • Lesego

      Kwame Obonomaba #

      How come you’re not aware that the reason for forming new parties is to weaken the ANC votes?

    • Lesego

      Sterling Ferguson #

      “@Kwame, in the US if one is caught committing corruption all the parties will disown you…”

      Sterling, what youve said here is not true at all in fact nothing you’ve said about the US government is false. The FBI and the CIA sell drugs and all the US presidents’ foreign policy is all based on ethnic cleansing of other countries population and races. Antiterrorism is all based on corruption by government with the arms companies. In fact I wish I had time to actually go on and on.

    • -Sterling Ferguson

      @Lesego, that’s democracy to form a party to put their views on the table in the marketplace.

    • The Critical Cynic

      You go to town pointing out how this highly qualified lady has had very little impact despite her past achievements. Yes, and heading the world bank in the period leading up to the worst financial crisis in modern history does tend to get me wondering. However, what about all of the under-qualified ANC cadres who have had a measurable negative impact on the communities they are supposed to be serving. Should they still be occupying those positions? Note, I’m asking you about the not even qualified and the under-qualified who are under-delivering on a big scale – surely they should be replaced with qualified people who can deliver?

      @ enough Said
      I don’t believe Mamphele Ramphele is too good for politics, nobody is too good for politics. This is the problem with the world, we have too many people who are too bad for politics becoming politicians and too many good people avoiding it for the very reason that they don’t want that stigma attacfhed to them. Mamphele Ramphele could probably do more good for SA by staying out of politics and just continuing to be herself. .

    • Therese Oliff

      Thanks for an incredible read. I would like to know the real story of the strikes at UCT and also what Dr. Ramphele’s take was on structural adjustment (privatise or don’t get our World Bank loans).