Noted anti-apartheid activist Mamphela Ramphele on Monday launched a political party to challenge the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which she described as riven with “corruption, nepotism and patronage.”
Ramphele, 65, announced the creation of “Agang” to challenge the storied, but increasingly criticized ANC in elections next year.
Ramphele said Agang — meaning “Let’s Build” in the Sepedi language — will “declare war on corruption” and focus on rekindling the hopes that poor South Africans held when apartheid crumbled 19 years ago.
“Our country is at risk because self-interest has become the driver of many of those in positions of authority who should be focused on serving the public,” said Ramphele, a former World Bank managing director and trained medical doctor.
“Corruption, nepotism and patronage have become the hallmarks of the conduct of many in public service,” she said.
She also called for a turn-around in education.
“It is woeful, shameful that we should have such low expectations of young South Africans that we are prepared to accept 30 percent as a pass mark for school leavers,” she said.
Ramphele, who last week resigned as chairwoman of leading gold miner Gold Fields to prepare to enter politics, called for profound economic restructuring following months of deadly wage strikes in the mining and agriculture sectors.
Monday’s announcement ends weeks of speculation in Africa’s largest economy.
As a highly educated black woman who played a prominent role in the anti-apartheid struggle, including a one-time relationship with slain Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko, Ramphele has a formidable profile in a nation obsessed with identity politics.
She dismissed talk that her party would appeal mostly to the educated elite, given her academic background and business connections.
“I am no elite. I refuse to allow people to define me as such. I can identify with people from all backgrounds,” she said.
The ANC immediately went on the attack, accusing Ramphele of fundraising “in foreign countries” and describing her move as “grievance driven,” without elaborating.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions, an ANC ally, asked: “How seriously can we take someone who has just stepped down as head of a big, ruthless exploitative mine employer ... which undermines our present and future economic prospects?”