Ignore the barking dogs, Dr Ramphele

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Dear Dr Ramphele.

So here you are with an extraordinary track record by current standards of the human race – student activist, medical doctor, community activist, researcher, head of the University of Cape Town, leader at the World Bank – now wanting to devote the next phase of your life to help rebuild your country.

And what do you get?

"An accident waiting to happen."
"Who it's aimed at right now isn't clear. Her natural support base would be the slacktivist crowd."
"Every SAn have a right to elect & be elected! Welcome the Ramphele new party even though I see no future for it"
"Just seen what Mamphela Ramphela was wearing. Most unfortunate headgear." (from a woman with a Ph.D who can't spell your last name.)
"She has put the Kool Aid out there. Let’s see if South Africa drinks it."

Let the dogs bark, the caravan moves on!

Plato said that those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.

I would never call our president "dumb", but truth be told, I felt his state of the nation address last week could justifiably be classified as punishment.

Your speech, on the other hand, touched on all of the points that resonate with me – education, youth development, corruption, nepotism, patronage, and building a sense of self-identity that defines us as South Africans before all else.

On that basis alone, there are thousands of citizens who constitute a potential power base for a new political party, so I would have no fears in that regard.

I note with interest that Gwede Mantashe is casting aspersions on your potential sources of funding already.

Ignore him.

If the US gives you lots of money, take it. If the Chinese give you lots of money, take it. Ditto for the Venezuelans. (I'd be reluctant to take money from the Israelis, but that's me.) Just proudly declare to everyone where the money came from and where it's going. Neither the ANC nor the DA is prepared to do that.

You are going to have people lining up to fill available seats in Parliament, among them many of your chronological peers who have retired from active duty.

Ignore them.

Instead, populate your party lists with young people who have a track record of excellence in their academic lives and careers.

You are going to have people asking what is your stand on nationalisation, on abortion, on the death penalty, on religion, on gay rights, on polygamy.

Ignore them.

We have a robust constitution and a competent Constitutional Court that has already satisfactorily dealt with all of those issues.

You are going to have people asking you whether you are capitalist or communist or socialist or liberal.

Ignore them.

The communists of China rule the capitalist economy while Obama has pushed through a largely socialist agenda from day one. Labels are for the simple-minded. Integrity is in your actions.

Here's what I think you need to do.

Focus on Gauteng.

You're going to have people telling you that you should focus on the rural poor.

Ignore them.

The ANC has that market sewn up too tightly thanks to social grants and patronage.

Census 2012 shows that Gauteng is now the most populous province in the country. It is also the richest, the most educated, the most informed, and the most pissed-off at inefficiencies resulting from bureaucratic mismanagement.

In the 2009 national elections, the ANC pulled 64% of the votes in Gauteng. In the 2011 municipal elections, the ANC pulled 60% of the vote (3,9 million voters). It's on a downward trend.

If you can persuade 661 561 people who voted ANC in the last election to vote for your party instead, you will hold the balance of power in the province.

Focus on Gauteng. Pour all of your enthusiasm, your dedication, your intellectual capital into capturing the hearts and minds of voters in the province.

The ANC will still rule the province, but will be forced to get your approval before spending public funds. And that approval can only come after open debate and voting in the provincial parliament under the watchful eyes of public scrutiny.

Take a lesson from the words of Lincoln 150 years ago: "The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise – with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

Fix Gauteng, and you fix the economic heart of the continent. The rest will follow.

It really is that simple.


A fellow South African.