There are two new political parties on the South African firmament designed to appeal to black voters disenchanted with the ruling African National Congress (ANC). One is AgangSA, founded by anti-apartheid icon Mamphela Ramphele. It emphasizes good governance, better service delivery, constitutionalism, and the rule of law. The other is the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), organized by former ANC youth leader and “bad-boy” Julius Malema. EFF advocates wholesale seizure and redistribution of land, mines, and much of the rest of the economy that is historically owned or controlled by whites; regardless of costs.
Malema trumpets his support from Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. Conventional wisdom has been to characterize Agang as appealing only to a narrow constituency of middle class blacks, while EFF on the other hand stirs concern as representing the sentiments of many in the townships and rural areas that have been left behind in post-apartheid South Africa.
Countering these assumptions, Agang issued a press release on September 25 announcing that some 200 former members of the EFF have just joined Agang in greater Johannesburg (Gauteng province). New members include a former EFF Gauteng provincial organizer, a provincial coordinator, and fifteen other former members of the EFF’s Gauteng structure. According to the press release, the new members pledged “to uphold the party’s values of equality, freedom, and dignity and to represent AgangSA’s values of accountability, transparency, competence, and Ubuntu, in line with the ideas of the struggle for freedom.” Agang continues its attacks on the governing ANC: “After nearly twenty years of stealing by ANC leaders, we must change course now or corruption will rob us all of our future. AgangSA is going to kick corrupt leaders out of government and restore dignity, hope, and freedom for all.”
Agang is a serious political party led by a serious and highly credentialed leader. Ramphele is a medical doctor, a former vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town, an entrepreneur, and the mother of anti-apartheid martyr Steve Biko’s children. For black voters, she represents a credible, democratic alternative to the ANC. EFF, on the other hand, is headed by Julius Malema, who is widely regarded as undisciplined and corrupt, espousing irresponsible policies based on envy.
One swallow does not make a spring. But the Gauteng defection from the EFF to AgangSA may be a sign that Ramphele’s new party is going to be a serious and credible challenge to the ANC.