We don’t need another hero: Why I won’t be joining Agang
- Sisonke Msimang
- 20 Feb 2013 02:04 (South Africa)
So, I understand the excitement about Dr. Ramphele and her new platform. Weirdness reigns at the DA (Helen Zille speaking Xhosa badly at rallies, trying to back a commission of inquiry into the conduct of the police, and being as evasive as the ANC when it comes to Gupta funding, to name a few examples). Paranoia is the order of the day at the ANC (forcing FNB to apologise for something we were never allowed to see, mobilising its cadres to protect someone's spear, refusing to tell us the truth about Nkandla). All in all, it feels like the poor South African voter is stuck between a rock and an incredibly smelly and uncomfortable place.
Despite this, I will not be supporting Ramphele and her Gang in their new endeavour. Here are three reasons why:
1. I’m not a joiner. When asked why her new Gang doesn’t enter into an agreement with the Democratic Alliance, Mamphela Ramphele responded, “I’m not a joiner.” I would argue that this is precisely the problem of formal South African politics: our leaders think they are different from regular folk. Ramphele can ask us to join her new platform. But she is above joining others? Hmmmn, methinks I won’t be joining that.
2. if I wanted to vote for the DA, I would prefer to vote for Lindiwe - who is smart, young and has incredibly good taste in shoes – rather than for the good doctor. With respect, Dr. Ramphele is sixty-five and has a jerry curl. It is a style choice that indicates an out of touch-ness that disturbs me. I know, no one ever discusses how male politicians dress, and how they present themselves, and it is dangerous to discern too much from hairstyles, but really, its 2013.
In the meantime, and more seriously, it is hard to see the difference between Ramphele’s platform and what’s on offer at the Democratic Alliance stand. In particular, her race politics are diffuse and watery in a DAesque manner.
Since 1994 we have heard little about black consciousness from the woman who was once its strong proponent. So her response to questions about race and black consciousness in the press conference two days ago was disappointing but unsurprising. She suggested that what South Africa needs is national consciousness, rather than black consciousness. I won’t discuss the merits or demerits of this view. The point is that it is evasive.
This vagueness is curious, given Mamphele’s forthright stance on the issue of her partnership with Biko. I have always admired her unapologetic attitude towards their relationship. Indeed, we have come to expect her to lay out her views on a range of subjects without mincing her words. And yet, when it comes to relations between the race, she has danced a strange dance.
At least we know what Mazibuko thinks. She is nothing if not straightforward. When asked what blackness meant to her at the end of last year, Mazibuko responded, “Black is simply what I am. It’s not a goal to be reached. It’s not a moral value. It cannot be changed any more than the fact I am a woman. It is a demographic box which has meaning because of the history of the country I live in. It ends there. It doesn’t define who I am as a human being. It amounts to an unalterable descriptor of me; it doesn’t amount to a description of my character, my worth or my value as a human being.”
Of course not. But most black woman have been denied access to education, employment, land and opportunities on the basis of the intersections between their race, gender and class. Mazibuko’s failure to do a class analysis, her refusal to admit that she isn’t the typical black woman (she isn’t even the typical white woman) allows her to both be breathtakingly eloquent, and comprehensively apolitical. It’s a scary combination, but one that can be corrected.
Indeed, with her maturity and experience, Ramphele could provide the kind of support that Mazibuko needs to develop in her own thinking. Intellectual support and perspective that I doubt she can get from Zille.
Which brings me to my third and final point.
3. We don’t need another hero. In a week in which another hero has fallen, killing a woman in the process, I am frankly, a bit tired of the idea that we can be propelled forward by believing in people with stories of overcoming great hardship. In her speech on Tuesday, Ramphele painted herself as someone we should admire because of the barriers she has overcome. She noted that “I have said that I am no messiah. No single individual acting on their own can build our nation into the country of our dreams.”
She would do well to take her own words seriously. In a fragmented political arena in which opposition groups struggle to challenge the ANC, isn’t it time that we embrace the idea of responsible followership? I would respect Ramphele's decision to enter politics more if she wasn't insisting on being at the front. Imagine what message it would send to those who are bloated with the arrogance of leadership if she used her credibility and clout to be a joiner.
Imagine what inspiration it would give us if her generation finally sat down and let the next generation lead from the front.
I am just as hungry for political alternatives as the next South African, but I fear that Ramphele doesn’t represent anything new. We’ve had enough of heroes and gangs. We need joiners. DM
- South African politics: Big Brother meets the Kardashians
- What’s in a name: Is TolA$$Mo the boy who cried k***?
- Walking towards freedom: Thuli's journey
- How to write about the deaths of people who don’t matter
- Big butts and blackface: Why we need more naked women in Sandton
- Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea: A nation beholden to criminals
- Beauty & Grace: Mbeki, Hoffman and the power of stories
- A few good whites: Will civil society take Dr Ramphele back?
- There’s something about Mmusi: Black anger and white identity in Parliamentary politics
- The triumph of the technocrats: Boredom as a political strategy
- Limpho Hani, Clive Derby-Lewis and the power of refusing to forgive
- When the new repeats the old: Marikana haunts new Zuma Cabinet
- The trope of black incompetence: Are whites fit to run the DA?
- My mother the accountant-activist-farmer: Ntombi Msimang (1951 - 2014)
- In the public interest? Covering SMSes, sobs and shootings
- The rise of the sycophants
- Requiem for a dream: On loving and leaving the ANC
- Crossing the street to avoid white men: A conversation about violence
- Telling our own stories: beyond Oscar Pistorius
- Zille vs. Du Plessis: The utter and heart-breaking stupidity of words
- Sweet dreams: The speech I wish Zuma had given
- Jacob Zuma: The smartest guy in the room?
- Cast your vote, and do it wisely
- Minister Cwele, what are our spies doing with their R3 billion budget?
- Outing the liars: How to come out of an African closet
- The thinking woman’s guide to the 2014 elections
- On Truth & Reconciliation: Let's begin with the simple complicated truth
- It’s our party and we’ll boo if we want to
- Cry Freedom
- A long walk to Nkandla
- Fight the boxes tooth and nail: A letter to my daughter
- *Overheard: a conversation on Apartheid addiction and other liberal tenets
- McBride: Straddling South Africa’s fault lines
- Violence begets violence
- Cry me a river of crocodile tears
- Africa to pull out of AU and WTF to merge with Kung-Fu Fighters
- The Women's League is right: The ANC is not ready for a woman president
- Racist schools: Merely fulfilling their design
- Take the Unearned Male Privilege Quiz
- Tim Modise needs a breakfast shake: gay jokes aren’t funny
- Stan Sangweni: The most remarkable South African you've never heard of
- Viva the hecklers!
- The WTF Party meets Number One
- South Africa: No country for new unions
- Dear Corruption Watch, what about the victim?
- This is what you call 'an African solution'?
- Who killed Pinky Mosiane?
- Zimbabwe is not an ‘African’ problem – it’s just a headache
- Msimang launches WTF Party
- Cabinet reshuffle: A deal with the devil
- On being Mrs O: Michelle Obama fights back
- Corporate SA, the wolf in sheep’s clothing
- Is ridicule the best strategy?
- Our unfinished business: race and reconciliation
- Behind stone walls
- On being right
- Nine signs that it might be time to quit
- Fifty shades of affirmative action
- Fifty shades of affirmative action
- Will the real superpower please stand up?
- That infamous Madiba footage: was it really so bad?
- We are the ones we have been waiting for
- The Cardinal’s sins of reason and revelation
- On Excellence… and having a good hair day
- Five rules for deciding whether to get in a fight with another country
- Just because she’s saying nothing, doesn’t mean she is saying ‘yes’
- Revenge of the AWDs
- The road to the house of shame
- When will crime stop being a white thing?
- Advice to Minister Gordhan
- We don’t need another hero: Why I won’t be joining Agang
- Why women are asking for R10 billion - and why they must get it
- AWDs: Weapons of Misguided Frustration