Columns 5.2.2014 09:00 am

Ramphele is no Madiba

DA city councillor for Joburg Martin Williams

DA city councillor for Joburg Martin Williams

Some figures don’t add up. If Nelson Mandela’s estate is worth R46 million, Mamphela Ramphele is richer.

Or at least she was last year when she declared her net worth at R55 million. Yet she is short of money.

Yesterday Helen Zille told Talk Radio 702 that Ramphele is heavily in debt. In their long, on-off courtship, Ramphele approached Zille towards the end of last year to bail her out. A foreign donor had offered rewards to both parties if the DA and Agang got together. Evidently Ramphele needed this cash more than Zille did.

Perhaps Ramphele keeps her personal finances separate from those of Agang. It’s difficult to see where she could have blown her millions on the party. It has sparse accommodation in Braamfontein and a skeleton staff. Yet whatever she has done with her financial wealth, she has squandered her political capital in a blaze of egotistical indecision.

Ramphele compares herself with Madiba. A week ago, faced with criticism that she had not consulted Agang members about her decision to stand as the DA’s presidential candidate, she said Mandela had not been open with his colleagues about negotiations with the apartheid government. Presumably she was trying to say she, like Mandela, was above such trifles.

It was a bizarre comparison. First, she is no Madiba. Second, the DA is a liberal democratic opposition party, quite unlike the Nats, the enemy, who were a governing party controlling an apartheid state.

Yet Ramphele invoked Mandela several times, saying his death has freed South Africans from any moral obligation they felt to vote ANC. She told the SABC that South Africa needs Mandela-style leadership, implying she is the personification thereof.

Mandela, a lawyer, was a stickler for legal correctness who understood constitutional obligations. He would not have made the same cardinal blunder which was her undoing in this debacle. Ramphele agreed to be the DA’s presidential candidate. At last week’s press conference she and Zille sealed the deal with a kiss.

By that time she was aware that she would have to join the DA. Shortly before last week’s announcement she wanted to change the terms of agreement. She told Zille she had come up with a uniquely South African solution: she would remain Agang leader and presidential candidate as well as DA presidential candidate.

That is a legal impossibility. Very unMadiba-like. The constitution of the DA and the South African Constitution would both disallow Ramphele’s unique solution. Zille told her such a plan was nonsense. At that point Zille offered to call off the press conference if Ramphele insisted on her solution, but the Agang leader said they should go ahead.

So, by the time of last Tuesday’s televised marriage announcement Ramphele could have been in no doubt that DA membership was non-negotiable. Yet she still somehow thought this wouldn’t apply to her.

The excuses Ramphele has trotted out make no sense, except as part of a delusional pattern of flip-flopping. This wasn’t the first time she’d walked away from the DA but it will be the last, after Zille tweeted: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I have learnt a bitter lesson. Not again!”

What a pity. South African politics needs a shake-up. But we can do without egotists who think they are filling the Madiba gap.

 

today in print