Archbishop Desmond  Tutu, left, and Mamphela Ramphele at a memorial celebrating the life and work of veteran anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman at Wits University in 2009.  Picture: TYRONE ARTHUR
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, left, and Mamphela Ramphele at a memorial celebrating the life and work of veteran anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman at Wits University in 2009. Picture: TYRONE ARTHUR

ARCHBISHOP Emeritus Desmond Tutu has welcomed the arrival of Mamphela Ramphele to the South African political landscape, on the eve of the launch of her political party, Agang SA.

Ms Ramphele is set to launch Agang SA  in Pretoria on Saturday and her message thus far has centred on unravelling the climate of "fear and intolerance" that she says has characterised the South African political landscape.

Mr Tutu is an outspoken critic of the government and the African National Congress and believes that Ms Ramphele’s voice was one "worth hearing".

"Nearly 20 years into our democracy the graciousness and magnanimity that characterised our political firmament have to a great extent been surrendered at the altar of power and wealth," Mr Tutu said in a statement.

Frequent reports of government corruption and misspending were difficult to verify, said Mr Tutu, as these cases rarely appeared before court.

The right to protest was fought for, but it was abused when protesters damaged property, looted, resorted to violence and hurled excrement at politicians, he said.

"For all of these reasons — regardless of which political party one plans to support in next year’s election — few thinking South Africans would not welcome the entry into South African politics of someone of the calibre, background, intellect and resourcefulness of Mamphela Ramphele," Mr Tutu said.

He said a strong constitutional democracy was also strengthened by vibrant and "credible opposition".

"I have known Dr Ramphele for more than 30 years as a brave and principled leader who has been ready to take costly stands for social justice.’’

Mr Tutu’s is the first high-ranking endorsement of Ms Ramphele’s entry to the country’s political space. She launched her "political party platform" in February, promising to restore the voice of citizens to the centre of political discourse.

Other than being a solid campaign for electoral reform, she said little about the policies her "platform" would promote, promising that its position would be informed by wide-ranging consultations with citizens across the length and breadth of the country.

The launch of the party on Saturday is likely to shed light on her findings during her consultations and to also concretise the new party’s policies.

Ms Mamphela’s party will contest the 2014 election without the Democratic Alliance, whom she was initially in talks with over possibly joining forces.

Agang joins about 137 parties contesting the elections nationally, with only a handful obtaining seats in Parliament.

Many new entrants to the country’s political space started off strongly but failed to maintain their momentum.

The new player on the scene ahead of the 2009 national election, the Congress of the People, stands little chance of improving its share of the vote in 2014, after it obtained 1.3-million, or 7.42%, of the vote in 2009.

Since its inception, the party has been wracked by debilitating internal squabbles over leadership, which is comprised of politicians who split from the ruling party, taking with them some members disgruntled over the axing of former president Thabo Mbeki.

Last week, Agang fended off its first major skirmish from a nongovernmental organisation that claimed the new political platform had "hijacked" the name of one of its projects.

Hola Bon Renaissance Foundation, the nongovernmental organisation in question, told a media briefing it was seeking legal advice on the matter.

An Agang SA spokesman had said the trademark application was under way after the launch of the platform in February.

"It appears that an alternative trademark application was made in April; however, our legal advisers suggest that this should be unsuccessful."

With Khulekani Magubane