Dr Mamphela Ramphele today declared her intention to form a party political platform for all South Africans “that will focus on rekindling hope that building the country of our dreams is possible in our lifetime.”
In a speech delivered at the Women’s Gaol on Constitution Hill, she said: “Our country is at risk because self-interest has become the driver of many of those in positions of authority who should be focussed on serving the public.”
She added: “The great society to which we committed ourselves following our relatively peaceful political transition is rapidly unravelling before our eyes. The impressive achievements of the past eighteen years are being undermined by poor governance at all levels of society. An unchecked culture of impunity and the abuse of power as well as public resources rob children, young people, rural and urban poor people of the fruits of freedom.”
Her decision to enter politics had not been easy, she said, and she had no illusions that the task ahead would be easy. She saw herself as “a bridge between my generation… and that of my children.” She added: “Bridges get trampled upon.” But she nevertheless declared her trust in South African’s “capacity to come together at critical times to do what others believe is impossible.”
“We have been here before,” she said. “We managed to pull ourselves from the brink of disaster before and surprised those who under-estimated our resolve as a people. The political party platform we are working on forming is an opportunity for all citizens to join hands in shaping it to ensure that it responds to the yearnings of citizens who have largely stood on the sidelines for lack of an appropriate political home.”
At this stage of development, she said, “We launch this initiative under the name Agang, or in the Nguni languages of our country, Akhani, which can be interpreted in English as ‘Build South Africa’.”
During her speech, Dr Ramphele laid out several critical discussions her party would initiate across the country: the power and responsibility of active citizenship; enabling good governance; developing improved competency in the public service; how the economy can be restructured for growth, sustainability, and improved equality; creating education and training systems for the 21st century that better position youth in a competitive world; and raising South Africa’s standing in the world.
Dr Ramphele also reiterated her earlier call for electoral reform. She said: “Our rallying cry during the struggle for freedom was for the people to govern, yet the system of choosing Members of Parliament from lists drawn up by political parties gives disproportionate power to party bosses at the expense of ordinary citizens.
“We should be able to vote for the person in our own area we want to represent us in Parliament, so we can hold them accountable for the electoral promises they make. We want an MP for Marikana, an MP for De Doorns, and an MP for Sasolburg, so if the people are unhappy and the MP is not responsive enough, they will be voted out at the next election.”
She announced a one million signature campaign calling for electoral reform and said it must be the first order of business of the post-2014 election parliament.
Concluding her speech, Dr Ramphele, a past student and community development activist, researcher, university executive, and former Managing Director at The World Bank, declared:
“I invite all compatriots to work with us to build a South Africa we can all be proud of. We owe it to you, our children, and your children to leave them a legacy of a great country. I have put up my hand. I ask you all to join this effort. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less. Our mothers and grandmothers deserve nothing less. All South Africans deserve nothing less.”
February 18, 2013