First new political party in 5 years launches

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Apartheid-era activist and former World Bank managing director Mamphela Ramphele officially launched South Africa’s first new political party since 2008 in Pretoria this week.

Agang, meaning “Let’s Build” in Sesotho, are hoping to challenge the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in next year’s elections.

The ANC have been the sole ruling party of South Africa since 27 April 1994, when Nelson Mandela won 63% of the overall vote, a day still celebrated in the post-Apartheid state as an annual public holiday. Yet the hitherto undefeated party have in recent years faced criticism over their failure to tackle persisting issues of corruption, unemployment and inequality.

In 2008 an ANC splinter group founded the rival Congress of the People (COPE) party, but have only had a limited electoral impact.

Ramphele, 65, the former partner of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko, said that South Africa “has reached a crossroads.”

“I for one do not want to think about where we will be in five years time unless we change course,” she announced at the Agang launch event.

Ramphele has said that she has been “in conversation” with the Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa’s official opposition, but believes Agang “can reach much further than where the DA can reach, because we are not bringing any baggage to the party.”

Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu, a critic of the modern-day ANC, has given his blessing to the party’s launch.

“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,” he wrote last week.

“If Dr Ramphele formally enters the election race next year, and goes on to attract sufficient votes to become a parliamentarian, there is no doubt that South Africans will benefit from her experience and her knowledge – and from hearing her voice.

“She is an African woman – I happen to think women make better politicians than men – and she is entering our political discourse on a clean slate, so to speak.”