Africa’s first new party for five years invokes spirit of Mandela

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A leading apartheid-era activist launched South Africa’s first new political party in five years yesterday, saying the ruling African National Congress (ANC) was destroying the continent’s biggest economy.

Despite widening schisms in the ANC and allegations of graft and poor leadership, it remains an unrivalled political machine commanding a nearly two-thirds majority in parliament.

Nevertheless, ‘Agang’, Sesotho for “let us build”, will contest 2014 elections, party leader Mamphela Ramphele said.

An anti-apartheid campaigner and partner of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko, Ramphele said millions were still living like forgotten citizens and that the country had not come far enough, fast enough.

She referred to the optimism that prevailed at South Africa’s first all-race elections in 1994, “We remember the outpouring of hope and joy at the release of Nelson Mandela, fist raised in defiance.”

Anti-apartheid hero and South Africa’s first black president, Mandela, 94, is in a “serious but stable” condition in hospital, the government said yesterday.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu – a strong anti-apartheid voice and champion of the “Free Mandela” campaign globally – has backed Ramphele, 65, saying she is a principled leader ready to take costly stands for social justice.

“Nearly 20 years into our democracy the graciousness and magnanimity that characterised our political firmament have to a great extent been surrendered at the altar of power and wealth,” Tutu said in a letter in support of Ramphele released on Friday.

A medical doctor and former World Bank managing director, Ramphele was also placed under house arrest for seven years by the apartheid government because of her political work. She has regularly challenged authority and the ANC on its failings.

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