Defend Truth


Dear Dr Mamphela Ramphele… Let’s talk frankly


Dr Onkgopotse JJ Tabane is the Editor of Leadership Magazine and Anchor of Power to Truth on ENCA. He holds a PhD in media studies from Wits University. He is CEO of a communications company Sgwili Media Group and is Author of Lets Talk Frankly. He is also a trustee of the Love Life Trust, The UWC Foundation as well as Chair of the UWC Media Society.

A year ago, you created a storm ahead of the State of the Nation Address and called on South Africans to build South Africa. Draped in traditional Xhosa gear with the symbol of the Constitutional Court to go with it, you made a clarion call for the revisiting of our 1994 dreams. Many believed you and had renewed hope in some sort of a fresh start - a political platform with no baggage. A mere year later, your attempt at forming a political party has gone the way of COPE - down the drain, with a lot of disappointment for those who believed in you.

Sadly, it was not the first time you left so many high and dry. You attempted to tap into the mobilisation of civil society – forming a similar movement just a short two years ago, calling on citizens to take back their power, and so on. That movement was equally short-lived, since you abandoned it to be founder of the now apparently stillborn Agang SA. Those who followed you there needed to then think about whether you were bluffing when you denounced politics in their raw sense in favour of civil society mobilisation as a sure way of expressing civic duties.

Through movements such as Freedom Under Law, you demonstrated how effective civil society could be in changing the direction of societal development. Your challenging of the NPA on the Mdluli case was one of those rare civil society victories against the complacency of the bureaucracy. Your movement does not seem to have achieved much before you swapped it, underpants style, with Agang SA. It is my considered view that with your integrity and experience, your entrance into politics is not suitable for you at all. Gutter stuff, frankly, is unlike you.

Look at what civil society has achieved over the last years. Look at what the TAC managed to do on the HIV/Aids stakes. Look at what Section27 has done with the challenges of education. This, with the support of your now-defunct or non-functional civil society movement, could keep government on its toes way more than your little effort at a political party could ever do. Look at the pathetic track record of false starts like COPE, and your heart should sink. Look at what became of the UDM, IFP, PAC… and tell me how exactly were you hoping Agang SA was going to be different. Now people can be excused for thinking you are playing them for fools. They should be excused for thinking that you are playing with their emotions. I was astounded that you dismissed your own members’ concern by calling this a “merger and acquisition” that was never discussed. This sounds very democratic indeed – a sign of things to come when you become president?

Madam, lets talk frankly… You fell for the Zille trick of tokenism. Why, I wonder? Since we are all aware that the chances of the DA being the government of the day are slim – even by admission of Lindiwe Mazibuko, who is targeting to be president in two elections’ time – why do you agree to go and have a meaningless leader-of-the-benches role while Zille remains in the pound seat as possible repeat premier of the Western Cape? How on earth will you make a difference if the DA loses the elections? It is clear that you did this for reasons that are fudge. It pains me when a person of your calibre is simply shunted around akin to a rent-a-crowd situation. It does not seem to me that you are at the table as an equal. I may be wrong, but you have not covered yourself in glory, explaining why your move seems so hot on the heels of failure to pay your staff on time in December, and why there is a palace revolt threatening to impeach you already. This may also well be rumour – the same rumour that you wasted no time perpetuating that your Gauteng leader is an EFF plant (he has since called you a liar in that regard). This is gutter politics stuff from someone who claims not to be a politician. Let’s be frank: You are as much a politician as they come – already competing for a place in the mud. With this sell-out move to the DA, you have confirmed your place in the political mud of South Africa.

Madam, you have botched it up this time. For ten months, you led people on. You claim to have toured the rural areas, presumably ‘to take people with you’. You were quick to attack the media for being out of touch, unlike the rurally connected you. I assume that in these rural meetings that you pride yourself for so dutifully convening, you took these rural communities in your confidence about why you would possibly throw in your lot with a basically white party, whose “English-speaking white supporters do not understand the inequalities visited on the majority in the country and the consequences of their perpetuation for quality of our democracy”  [A direct quote from your autobiography, by the way]. In the same breath, as a matter of fact, you said that the DA was “complacent, trapped in their inability to realise that poverty could be eradicated”.  I suppose all these sentiments have now changed? On one of your not-so-flattering radio interviews after the astonishing announcement, you took great umbrage at the suggestion that the DA had not changed, but as Malema would say, you ‘failed successfully’ to provide a shred of evidence about what such change could possibly be.

Your decision not to join the DA a year ago made sense. You have, however, again ‘failed successfully’ to take your own well-articulated advice that “the repositioning of the DA would never be solved by my presence as a leader of the party”. (Another excellent quote from your educated self, although you did not stop there, adding: “My presence would not obliterate the misgivings of the majority of black people…My son went on to tell me that he would rather die than vote DA.”)

Your own son now will rather die than vote for you – how did you get that right? Now you have really stuffed up, Madam.

And then the punchline: “So what would be achieved by my joining the DA? Nothing.”

Other quotable one-year-old quotes from you are even more damning:

“I am not a joiner …”

“60% of South Africans believe that the DA will reinstate Apartheid.”

“There are traditional DA supporters that say they no longer think the DA is up to the task.”

Nevertheless, Madam, you are right about one thing – alone, Agang SA stood no chance in hell to win even a municipality.

Look, I wish you well dealing with Zille. Look at your fellow comrade, Patricia. Whatever happened to the Independent Democrats? It seems clear as day that the same fate awaits the Agang SA faithfuls. Good luck, as all you will be building is Zille’s Republic. With your remarks that “South Africa deserves more than Black Economic Empowerment”, you are in good company.

Yours frankly,

Onkgopotse JJ Tabane DM


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