Mamphela Ramphele. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Mamphela Ramphele. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

AFRICAN National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Gwede Mantashe on Monday labelled activist Mamphela Ramphele a biased academic, saying she had used her criticism in the past decade as a launch pad for her impending political career.

Mr Mantashe was responding to news that Dr Ramphele would launch her own political party next month. This comes as the ruling party tries to plug holes and put up a united front to avoid a poor showing in next year’s elections.

Opposition parties have warmly received news that Dr Ramphele would launch a party next month.

Mr Mantashe also said the move would be welcomed, but warned that the terrain was not easy and that it sometimes ended in tears, as shown by the failure of the Congress of the People.

Its founders broke away from the ANC in 2008 and now face extinction despite a good electoral performance in 2009.

Mr Mantashe said it would be better for the ANC now that Dr Ramphele was preparing to "come out of her cocoon" and become a politician, instead of attacking the ANC under the guise of intellectual work. In the past 10 years Dr Ramphele had been "pretending to be an analyst" when in fact that was all part of her preparation to launch her own party.

Historically she had been an objective academic, but she had become " polarising in her engagement" over the past decade, Mr Mantashe said. One such example was how she likened the failure to deliver textbooks in Limpopo with the situation under apartheid.

"She equated a crisis of books in Limpopo to the apartheid (era), while in reality only teachers (and not children) were allocated books under apartheid," Mr Mantashe said.

"We welcome the fact that she has come out of a cocoon. It is better when you know what you are dealing with — dealing with the person, not her shadow."

The proposed new party, set to be launched next month, could chip away at the ANC — and other parties’ — middle-class voters. This is a section of the electorate the ANC has battled to retain.

Other opposition parties could also suffer, as the 2011 local elections revealed a trend where smaller parties were being swallowed up by the Democratic Alliance.

Mr Mantashe said the ANC would take Dr Ramphele’s new party seriously in the same way it did with others. A total of 156 parties were registered in South Africa.

If Dr Ramphele’s party emphasised intellectualism, it would be more of a threat to parties like the Azanian People’s Organisation than the ANC, Mr Mantashe said. Its campaign would intensify early next year, but party leaders were already working on the ANC’s weaknesses.

Mapungwube Institute for Strategic Reflection political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana said the idea of a new party was good, but it would require money and excellent political leadership and skills.

© BDlive 2013