“I want South Africa to become a just nation”, said Mamphela Ramphele, among the founders of the black consciousness movement and companion of the late anti-apartheid icon Steve Biko. At the end of June, she launched a new party, Agang, which promises to challenge the African National Congress (ANC) and President Jacob Zuma. Ramphele, 65, mother of two children with Biko, is an internationally renowned and respected voice. After fighting against the apartheid rule, she served as managing director of the World Bank and chairwoman for the Gold Fields mining company, from which she resigned in February when she confirmed speculation on her political bid in the 2014 elections. She talked to Southworld Web Magazine.
Dr. Ramphele, Agang in the Sesotho language means “Let us build”. Has there not been enough building over the past 19 years, since the end of apartheid?
“The foundations of what was built during the fight against segregation are still standing, but have eroded. We received compliments from around the world for our Constitution. As foreseen by Chapter 9 of the Constitution, we created new institutions that have the duty of defending the values of democracy. On these foundations we can build the future that missions of South Africans desire, or better, we have to. Nineteen years after apartheid, 80% of schools do not work because without basic services. Unemployment is officially at 25%, though if you count those who have given up looking for jobs the percentage rises easily over 30%. Among youths, one on seven is unemployed. The majority of South Africans are excluded from any type of economic wellbeing and have become foreigners in their own nation. Agang aims to transform the pledges printed in black and white in the Constitution into a strong democracy, united in its diversities and which allows South Africa to reach its full potential. I believe this dream can become reality”.
Where did the ANC go wrong?
“In many things, but always for the same reasons: the absence of political will. The economy didn’t generate jobs even in growth. Neither the mining industry nor the agricultural sectors were restructured. The middle to small businesses were not supported. There was no investment in professional formation. Today, for 80% of South Africans schools are worse than in apartheid times, with no electricity, no lavatories, libraries, gyms or sports fields. In a democracy, these are violations against child’s rights; violations that compromise the future of South Africa. Another failure is the health system. Medical assistance for the poor is worse in respect to 20 year ago. In hospitals doctors do what they can, but there are not sufficient medical supplies or even blood. Then there is the police, always more inefficient and incapable of serving the people; and the culture of impunity remains among the most serious problems”.
To what do you refer, specifically?
“To corruption, a wide scourge that begins at the top, in the presidential offices. Jacob Zuma was elected at the head of the African National Congress despite over 700 corruption charges against him. To defend himself, the President is attempting to influence the judiciary”.
Is Agang a liberal, left or socialist party?
“It is the party of social justice. It was formed to promote human dignity, equality and freedom. It is not right or left, we want South Africa to become a just nation”.
Mandela has been hospitalized since June 8, in what still yesterday were defined “critical” conditions. Has or will this farewell condition the political scene in South Africa?
“Mandela will always be an important factor. It is inevitable, because he is the father of the nation. But his shadow could cast over South Africa in a negative or positive manner. It would be tragic if someone used Mandela to remain in power, betraying his efforts with policies that are not in line with the Constitution. I in fact believe that some in his party, the ANC, plan to use him to influence South Africans to win the vote. Even despite Mandela’s words: If the ANC should do what the apartheid did to you, take away their power”. (V.G.)