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Agang can do well in next year’s poll

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After Dr Mamphela Ramphele said she was forming a political party to contest next year’s general election, many observers pondered the long-term viability of another opposition party. To answer this question, one needs to make a cursory assessment of the electoral performance of previously new opposition parties, such as Cope and the National Freedom Party (NFP).

Compared to Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi’s NFP and Mosiuoa Lekota’s Cope, Agang has the advantage of time to prepare for the election. Cope was formed six months before the 2009 general election and the NFP six months before the local government elections in 2011. Both performed reasonably well.

Cope amassed a million votes from South African voters in 2009. I am one of those who believe that they could have had more votes, if they did not start with their silly leadership squabbles before the elections, and did not replace Lekota with the less popular Mvume Dandala as their presidential candidate. They harmed their prospects with the self-destructive leadership contest between Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa.

KaMagwaza-Msibi’s national profile does not come anywhere close to that of Ramphele. If KaMagwaza-Msibi could pull off such an electoral feat, it is difficult to imagine why Ramphele can’t do even better. Apart from her activist background in the Black Conscious Movement decades ago, she has been a leader in the business and academic worlds.

Her party comes at a time when the ANC is under siege on many fronts. All opposition parties, and Agang in particular, can strategically exploit the current weaknesses of the ruling party to their political advantage during the 2014 election campaigns.

Among the ANC’s major challenges are corruption and a poor service-delivery record.

The ANC is the majority party, but its majority has been declining in the last two elections. The DA has made significant inroads into its traditional support base in townships and villages.

Predominantly regarded as a white and Western Cape-based party, it has attracted African members and leaders and improved its performance outside the Western Cape in the 2011 local government elections. Clearly it is working hard on shedding the “white party” image and positioning itself as a “national” party.

Agang comes with no baggage. The political environment is fertile for such a new opposition party, given the weaknesses and political and governance blunders of the ANC.

Some analysts wrongly characterise Agang as a party of intellectuals. Depending on its campaign messages and positioning strategies, Agang can easily appeal to ordinary people.

Already its message on government accountability, the need for electoral reform to empower constituencies and the call for people to rise and fight for change, resonates across race, gender and socio-economic strata.

Apart from the “born-free” votes that all parties are going to contest for, there are those who in the past voted for other opposition parties, but are disillusioned. There are those who plan to stay away. Agang can pitch its political message to all these potential voter segments and convince them that the solution is not to boycott the polls, but to vote for an alternative.

If Agang can learn from the mistakes of other parties, including the ANC and in particular Cope, it will have a huge long-term impact on the political landscape.

The Star

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