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S African activist forms party to take on ANC

Anti-apartheid leader Mamphela Ramphele accuses ruling ANC party of corruption, thwarting democracy, and abusing power.
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2013 18:09

Mamphela Ramphele, an anti-apartheid activist and co-founder of South Africa's Black Conscious Movement, has announced the formation of a new political party to take on the 101-year-old African National Congress (ANC) of Nelson Mandela.

The 65-year-old medical doctor and social anthropologist told a news conference on Monday that her party will serve millions of South Africans who want a new beginning.

"Join me in building the South Africa of our dreams," she said.

She accused the governing party of corruption, of undermining democracy, and of abusing power.

"And perhaps worst of all, my generation has to confess to the young people of our country: we have failed you"

- Mamphela Ramphele, an anti-apartheid activist

"The dream has faded for the many living in poverty and destitution in our increasingly unequal society," Ramphele, a former World Bank managing director, said.

Al Jazeera's Tania Page, reporting from Johannesburg, said Ramphele also talked about the high unemployment among the young people in South Africa.

"About 50 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds in this country are unemployed," Page said. "She wanted that to be addressed through economic restructuring, and she wants education to be improved."     

'New beginning'

Ramphele said her party, called Agang in the Sesotho language meaning "Build", will be funded by South Africans at home and abroad.

She told a news conference that her party will contest 2014 elections, campaign "from village to village" and serve millions of South Africans "who have confirmed a hunger for a new beginning".

Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna, who has extensively covered South African politics, said Ramphele poses a threat to the ruling ANC, due to her personality and her platform.

"Mamphela Ramphele in an immensely respected activist," Hanna said. "She's never been a member of any political party. She may bring into the political arena, that is tainted with alliances, a degree of freshness."

More importantly, Ramphele has called for a change in the voting system from proportional voting, where people vote for a party, to constituency-based system, where people vote for individuals," Hanna said.

"This is something that is going to strike a chord and will introduce something new into the South African system," he said.          

Economic chasm

Her party joins several in the opposition at a time when South Africa is burdened by a growing chasm between rich and poor, as well as massive unemployment.

The country has seen increasingly violent protests against job losses, utility shortages and faces education and health crisis.

She said that she was appalled to learn that 71 percent of South Africans between the ages of 15 to 38 years are unemployed.

That group, she said, makes up 60 percent of the population.

Ramphele spent seven years under house-arrest enforced by the white-minority apartheid regime in the 1970s, and she used her expulsion to a remote rural area to start a health programme to empower women through initiatives like growing vegetables.

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Source:
AP
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