Mike van Graan
Mike van Graan

Ramphele debacle reflects DA’s double standards

For the Democratic Alliance, this was to be the “game-changer”. With a credible black face as its presidential candidate, the ANC would no longer be able to use the race card to dismiss the DA, went the reasoning. Yet, no sooner had the DA announced Mamphela Ramphele as its Number One candidate, the ANC was dismissing her as a “rented black”.

(The ANC knows all about “rented blacks” with some of its top leadership having been hired out as political protection to a variety of white-owned companies, and so successful was this strategy, that under ANC rule, a range of other products is now available such as “party for hire”, “rented police” and even “president for sale”. But that’s another article).

Whether something is a game-changer or not depends on who’s defining the game and, as the DA has now learned to its embarrassing horror, who the players are. While the DA succumbed to the race-game set by the ANC, the real game is about class, about the gap between those who have (an increasingly non-racial elite) and those who don’t have (still overwhelmingly black African), with race the historical or convenient frame used, depending on how, and with whom, “the game” is being played at a particular time.

But let’s look at how the DA — or its supporters — play “the game” and at how the appointment of Ramphele contradicts, or at least exposes, its own duplicity. On the one hand, Ramphele is appointed as this would be a reason why many people — particularly black people — would vote for the DA. On the other hand, there are many who would not even contemplate voting for the EFF because of its leader. But how dissimilar are Ramphele — the (former) great white hope and Julius Malema, the great white threat? It depends on who’s setting the rules of “the game”.

I have never met Malema and I have on one occasion met Ramphele in a handshake kind of way, so all I have to go on — like most of the voting public — is what is in the public domain through the media, through reports, commentary and what these two politicians themselves put out there.

In the first instance, many in the DA fold dismiss Malema as a political opportunist, as someone who initiated the EFF only as a platform for himself after being kicked out of the ANC, a platform that he will use to re-integrate himself into the ANC when it is in his interests to do so, thereby kicking his supporters in the teeth.

This very description could, of course, be ascribed to Ramphele after she — without any consultation with Agang’s leadership, made herself available as the DA’s candidate for the presidency. She did so at a time when her go-it-alone initiative was facing much-publicised financial challenges, so that — without any shred of principle — she opportunistically jumped into a political marriage of convenience that she had — for principled reasons — rejected less than a year earlier. The DA not only engaged this opportunism, they aided and abetted it. Gallingly, Ramphele called this about-face opportunism “leadership” in the tradition of Nelson Mandela. Now that she has reversed her decision largely in response to the hugely negative response from within her own ranks, she reveals just how opportunistic this appropriation of Madiba was too.

Secondly, Malema is ridiculed for his bling lifestyle, for the apparent contradictions between his wealth on the one hand, and on the other, the interests of the poor who he claims to represent. The DA presented Ramphele as an alternative to the corrupt ANC and its Number One, as a woman of great integrity and an avid anti-corruption campaigner.

South Africa is estimated to have 48 000 millionaires. Ramphele is one of them. By her own admission, she is worth more than R50 million, although this is only 10% of what Forbes Magazine said she was worth in 2009 when it listed her as one of Africa’s richest women. I would venture that she is far wealthier than Helen Zille and many times richer than most DA supporters who had a longer time and more conducive circumstances in which to accumulate wealth under apartheid. So how did Ramphele get to be so wealthy, and so rapidly?

I’m happy that she has declared her assets as a politician, but I’d be much more interested to know how she acquired her wealth, particularly after reports of “empowerment deals” — such as the one at Goldfields where she served as chairperson of the board — that allocated shares worth millions to politically connected individuals.

How different is Ramphele to Malema, both of whose “value adds” to companies would have been less technical, commercial and financial, and more political? In a country with such gross inequality and poverty, even if Ramphele’s wealth was gained legally, how moral is it that one person should acquire so much, in so short a space of time, while so many continue to live below the poverty line? That the DA believed that Ramphele could be an alternative to the apparently corrupt amorality of the ANC leadership, reflects its ability also to play “the game” on its terms, to set the rules of the game when it serves its interests, and to turn a blind eye to deeply moral questions.

And how the DA believed that the multi-millionaire Ramphele would resonate more with the poor who constitute the majority of the “voter market” than Malema with his supposedly contradictory lifestyle, is anyone’s guess.

Thirdly, Malema’s personal qualities are deemed a major liability. He is arrogant, self-serving and has a huge ego, goes the political mainstream narrative. It is all about him.

However, while we know of others in the EFF’s leadership, Agang has been all about Ramphele. Only after her short-lived, unlikely DA-sponsored presidential bid, did we hear of and see others who are engaged in Agang.

Now the DA has dismissed her as someone who cannot be trusted; were they unaware of her personal shortcomings before? And, if so, why did they insist on appointing her? In playing “the game” on their terms and failing so dismally, it is likely that — unless the DA does really well in the elections — many within the DA will be calling for a new coach and management team!

Fourth, Malema is painted as being just a little short of the anti-Christ, an anti-democrat, a rising tyrant, a fascist who appointed himself as leader of the EFF, without members having voted for him.

Agang was launched before the EFF and yet, Ramphele was never elected by the platform’s/party’s leadership either. So much of Agang has been built around the self-cultivated cult — her impeccable struggle credentials, her World Bank experience, her academic excellence, her integrity and advocacy against corruption — of Ramphele. The irony is that the Democratic Alliance — the erstwhile defenders of our much-threatened democracy — not only parachuted this unelected leader into its top position (before getting her to sign a membership form, mind you), they did so when other DA candidates had to go through a rigorous process of grilling and selection to ensure that they subscribed to the party’s values, and that they would represent the party effectively. But then, when you are setting the rules of the game, then a few game-changers are permissible, yes?

Fifth, the DA fold ridicules Malema — like Jacob Zuma — for being unable to run their own finances, implying that they cannot be trusted to run the country. Again, Ramphele is offered as the alternative on this score. And yet, the very reason why Ramphele made herself available to the DA, was precisely because her initiative, Agang, was facing financial and staffing woes, reflecting her inability to anticipate and manage risk. But then, perhaps the thinking was that while Ramphele would be the public face of the DA challenging the ANC, it would be the “white DA” running things behind the scenes, just like the average empowerment deal. Or the city or province where the DA governs.

Some believe that notwithstanding the failure of the Ramphele deal, the DA has proven its commitment to non-racism by offering her its presidential candidacy (an empty offer as it would not have happened). However, the debacle has rather revealed the DA’s double standards, showing that it is at least as expedient as any other political formation by ignoring its principles, or turning a blind eye to the contradictions of its presidential candidate, in order to make short-term political gains.

Ramphele resonates with middle-class South Africa: she’s highly educated, well-dressed, articulate, with a positive international profile and her wealth makes them feel safe about their own relative comforts. The “uneducated”, “corrupt” Zuma is a “buffoon” and is dismissed by the middle class while Malema with his poor woodwork result is a source of ridicule, perhaps more so, because he represents a threat to the “haves”.

Yet, Zuma, soon after having hundreds of corruption charges against him withdrawn, won the ANC their highest number of votes since 1994, and Malema has attracted more followers than the Agang of Ramphele who the DA chose to install to counter both Zuma and Malema.

If the DA wanted to show its true commitment to transformation — at least of itself — it would have delayed the announcement of its election lists (why the rush since the election date has not been announced yet), ensured that the relationship between the DA and Agang was solidified, and that a mutually agreed percentage of Agang members — perhaps informed by the most recent independent voter surveys — would be on the joint DA-Agang election list.

Instead, because of Ramphele’s clear position of weakness, the DA cynically chose to cherry-pick her as their “presidential candidate”, announced their electoral lists (which, in its “most diverse ever” form is a reflection more on its previous lists than on the current lists being representative of the demographics and talent of the country) two days before the announcement of its “presidential candidate”!

The DA totally set the rules of its game, and while Ramphele must accept some of the responsibility for this, what was to have been a game-changer, has instead revealed the shallowness and cynicism of the DA’s game-plan, scoring a huge own goal in the process.

Tags: , , , , , ,

  • 10 things Ramaphosa should do in his first 100 days as president
  • Why South Africa continues to grapple with the L-word
  • Where is the wealth Malema wants to redistribute?
  • Thank you, Mr Trump!
    • Shaun

      Ok Mike, your beef with the DA is duly noted. Next….

    • Stephen

      Mike, what’s the point? You are stating the bleeding obvious: all politicians are opportunists, looking after #1.

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/mikevangraan/2014/02/05/ramphele-debacle-reflects-das-double-standards/ proactive

      “Schadenfreude” refreshes the soul of those who need to justify what? Please spare us all the confused natty political gritty please!

      Did we ever witness any politician in SA who immediately and freely admitted her failure of taking a “calculated risk” in politics? It’s common in business “no risk no reward”!

      Braving a journey to “Canossa”- like Henry IV in 1077 AD- to face the nation on TV in the “Justice factor” yesterday- to be crowned as ”the loser of the week” in front of everybody, taking full responsibility for that blunder- deserves respect!

      Not a coward nor loser,- but an astonishing brave lady with grit!

    • http://medialternatives.com David Robert Lewis

      Zille’s deal-breaker – the moment which changed the DA forever http://medialternatives.com/2014/02/05/zilles-deal-breaker-the-moment-which-changed-the-da-forever/

    • llewellyn zille

      Excellent article, DA voters are just going to try and assassinate your character now, instead of arguing the facts presented by you.

    • Christina

      Mike, your analysis is astute, good read, thanks. Please help me out here: what does it mean when a political party (it is always about the DA, never about ANC, which seems overwhelmingly black) must ‘transform’? Become more black? People has a constitutional right to vote for the party that mostly resonates with their cultural(?) outlook on life… so. If ‘whites'(I am actually sick and bored with the colour coding, it is SO apartheid/outdated) generally seem to feel more comfortable voting DA , and ‘Blacks’ for the ANC , how must the DA ‘transform’? To what? To where? Standards and codes (mostly more ethical , but then I am pale) seem to be better under DA governance (ANC governance sucks, and has all to do with management) but that definitely does not cut it with the black electorate. And Caucasians (?!) have a right to have a political ‘home’. So (and I agree with both Shaun and Stephen) quo where, DA? Or then, ‘whites’? A comment would be appreciated.

    • Baz

      Unfotunatley, DA will be always branded a “white” party regardless of other cultural groups joining up and hoping the party will change current issues once they have 2/3 thirds majority but that would be living in the neverland unless ;our majority get extremely tired of the current ruling party and wake up to the fact that things in general,
      will never change .There is a mind -set change of thinking with those in power or , those wanting to to be the next ruling party , including the general public with coming elections ahead of us.

    • http://www.whoswhosa.co.za-clarence-esau-62927 Clarence P. Esau

      @ Christina – ” If “whites” (I am actually sick and bored with the colour coding, it is SO apartheid/outdated) generally seem to feel more comfortable voting DA and “Blacks” for t he ANC…

      I would want us as South Africans to aspire to a point where we actually interrogate the manifestos of the parties and compare them to our lived experience and the best interests of the country and ALL of its peoples going forward and base our votes on THAT rather than a current sense of “comfort”.

      I would put it to you that it was just this sense of “comfort” that had people voting for the National Party year after year and only later realizing what was actually being done in their name. And I apportion NO blame when I say this…

      In the interests of transparency, I work for the ANC communications team amd you can view our manifesto at http://www.anc.org.za

    • Mr. Direct

      This whole situation is a shambles, with both parties losing serious credibility. How can you trust a party to run the country when it cannot run it’s own affairs properly?

    • http://maravi.blogspot.com/ MrK

      You have to wonder what makes Julius Malema, with ‘his poor woodwork results’, and his ‘inability to run his own finances’, would simultaneously be the Great White Threat?

      Could it be because he represents something much bigger than his own person?

      Dear Clarence P. Esau,

      Great to see someone from the ANC post here.

      The question is – what is being done to redistribute land, so that people can derive a middle class income from it, and develop the country in the process?

      There are a lot of jobs that can be created drought proofing agricultural land. It would be low cost and relatively labour intensive. On water harvesting and permaculture techniques in extremely low rainfall areas.

      Swales – rainwater harvesting
      Greening The Desert (Jordan)
      The Rainwater Harvester – mr. Zepheniah Phiri Maseko

    • Mariana De Leuca

      This article written by Prof Jane Duncan, Highway Africa Chair of Media & Information Society, Rhodes University, is worth reading:

      EFF Stuck in a racial mould


    • http://maravi.blogspot.com/ MrK

      Mariana De Leuca,

      ” This article written by Prof Jane Duncan, Highway Africa Chair of Media & Information Society, Rhodes University, is worth reading: EFF Stuck in a racial mould ”

      I don’t see the EFF stuck in any racial mould at all. The problem is who and how are people going to be compensated for at least a century of disenfranchisement, including the theft of land, cattle, gold/diamonds/platinum and labour. And the opportunity costs, of being stuck in reverse for a century – no accumulation of capital, property, education, social and business networks, and above all, no development of cities, towns across the country and other social and public capital.

      However, that certainly is a discussion worth having.

    • The Creator

      Once again, this is a strikingly good article. I may start going to Mr. Van Graan’s plays again; perhaps he has regained something to talk about.

    • http://paulwhelanwriting.blogspot.com Paul Whelan

      @MrK – The problem is not how people can be compensated for past centuries of injustice – it is plainly impossible to do that in any society.

      The problem is how government can be put to work for a fairer society today and in future, and govern efficiently and honestly to that end. The problem is many have begun to believe indefinite ANC government is falling down on the job.

      The problem, then, is whether people can believe the EFF’s policies will solve either problem rather than take their word that they can.

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/mikevangraan/2014/02/05/ramphele-debacle-reflects-das-double-standards/ proactive

      @MrK “I don’t see the EFF stuck in any racial mould at all.“

      …could it be followed that those with opposing views can equally not been seen stuck in any racial mould?

      Legally, fortunes turned in 1994! Ever tried adding up all government wastage, un-legislated theft, dishonest cadre & unreported political enrichments- repeating depriving the poor once more? Just a small example what all revolutionary emperors have in common:


      The monetary sum of governments’ mismanagement, all legalized social grants, land compensations, allowances for a slip in standards & innovations affecting all future generations and SA’s competitiveness globally – would that not be enough compensation for the past- or is this balance sheet bottomless- set by whom?

      Balance that with “a century of disenfranchisement” – which at that time was limited to land usage by several tribes of pastoral subsistence farmers and cattle traders- not by an established indigenous orderly industrial industry or a mining revolution.

      Studies by- http://www.ids.ac.uk/person/ian-scoones- to improve pastoral subsistence farming might assist a small population in tribal areas for a limited period- “1 kg of tobacco requires about 9 kg of wood to cure it under traditional curing systems”- a dubious trade off between deforestation, CO2 , importing maize/food instead?

      Evolution or back to revolutions of the 1850’s?

    • http://trilogy-leading.blogspot.com C Stephens

      Mike, you paint quite a panorama of the Opposition leaders! However, for an article about the DAgang debacle, it was Malema who came out looking pretty bad. That may not have been your intent, as you were just showing that Ramphele can be tarred with the same brush as DA supporters are using to tar Malema. But you miss one VERY important evaluation criteria – age. Ramphele is 67. Zille is 62. Malema is 33. Let’s be honest… according to the IEC, 24% of registered voters are between 18 and 24. Another 23% are from 25 – 34. Put bluntly, about half the electorate is Malema’s age or younger. And another 38% are between 35 and 49 – that is under 50. You know, Michelle Obama just had her 50th birthday, and she is into her second terms as First Lady! C’mon, Mike! You think these young people affected by soaring youth unemployment rates are gonna vote for a 61-year old white madam, or a 67-year old waffler, or a 71-year old who spend millions feathering his own nest while young people remain unemployed so long that they become unemployable?! Did you know that the average COSATU worker has been 43 years in the same job? That’s a great testimony to why it has stayed in the alliance for so long – for the benefits to its members. Meanwhile, young people feel redundant in their own country. Malema is not only speaking to them, he is speaking for them. get ready for some surprises on May 7th.

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/mikevangraan/2014/02/05/ramphele-debacle-reflects-das-double-standards/ proactive

      Those who show a deeper interest into the origins of a MrK’s opinions- please enter the world of a Mr. Ian Scoones, http://www.ids.ac.uk/person/ian-scoones & his sponsored Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9RE, UK.

      “Our vision is a world in which poverty does not exist, social justice prevails and economic growth is focused on improving human wellbeing”

      Please read e.g. the “key findings” and “policy directions” of a study project about South Africa & judge its relevance! Coming from an “UK based mainly “political” think tank?


      Subject: “Ingqua, a new local municipality in the eastern portion of the Wild Coast”
      Anyone ever heard about it & any positive implementation/result/outcome?

      Has SA no local and better expertise within its own “Academia” and the many brilliant & existing research institutions to beat an “Ian Scoones British “charity think tank” hands down?

    • Delinquent

      Mike, Unfortunately super imposes all that has been said about Malema and more particular by ANC spin doctors and super imposes it on the DA. There is one fundamental reason that the DA have not asked Malema to be party leader. That is ideology.

      The DA is a liberal democratic party and pursues a specific set of values. Malema sets fourth an archaic form of socialism. They incompatable. A lot of words wasted and bandwith Mr van Graan by ignoring the obvious.

    • Insomniac

      From a sleep deprived Zimbabwean who has ‘been there, done that’ since being introduced to serious thought at the age of 11 in November 1965, a short, but maybe not sweet note: “man who warms his hands over the fire of African polictics will get severely burned.”

    • Momma Cyndi

      As much as Dr Ramphele has disillusioned me – South Africa is hot and cold (or black and white) only. There is no place for comfortable. You are either right or left with nothing inbetween. Agang was working on practical and comfortable – that isn’t our way. Politically, she was toast to start with. We want a ‘revolution’ or a ‘same as always’. Either white folk are the ‘enemy’ or they are ignored.

      Ramphele seems to have been looking at a reinvention of the UDF and Zille seemed to be looking at another Borg type assimilation. I don’t think the two of them even heard what the other was saying.