On AgangSA infightings

A lot of things have taken place in AgangSA this year especially following the May 8 elections – even prior to that. Below, is a piece I wrote on 16 June but never published.

I am very confused by all the media reports on the infighting in AgangSA. Today, Eye Witness News reports that all provincial leadership of the party had take a collective and unanimous decision that AgangSA leader Mamphela Ramphele be given 48 hours to resign pending a probe. According to the report, this followed an investigation into allegations that she had direct access to political party funds the party was to receive as refunds from the IEC.

EWN said all nine provincial branches of AgangSA tabled a motion of no-confidence against Ramphele. This followed other media reports last week that she and party chairperson Mike Tshishonga lodged conflicting fraud cases with police. AgangSA Gauteng spokesperson Donald Tontsi was quoted by EWN saying Ramphele “must actually step down until further investigations are completed by South African police. We will approach the courts to seek relief [if necessary] so that we can have stability in the party.”

It appears the entire leadership of AgangSA – like that of ANC, DA, Cope, etc – is experiencing factionalism. This is made worse by the fact that Tontsi seems to have taken a position on this matter, saying Ramphele “must step down until further investigations are completed”. Frankly, I have a problem with this statement because it is not for Ramphele to decide whether to step down or not but for the party’s highest decision-making body to decide whether to suspend her pending an investigation into the matter or not. To say she “must step down” at her own will smacks of factionalism as it is clear the highest leadership of AgangSA was yet to sit and decide on the way forward. Unless of course the highest leadership of the party did sit down and decide that Ramphele “must step down”.

From where I am sitting, this does not appear to indicate the highest leadership of the party sat down and made such a decision. Another confusing thing is that the EWN report does not seem to clear the confusion, in my view, created by another media report by Independent Newspaper Online yesterday afternoon.

According to the report, the party’s Eastern Cape provincial leadership was supporting Ramphele. EC provincial spokesperson, Phillip Machanick, was quoted saying: “We confirm our unqualified support for Dr Mamphela Ramphele as president and leader of AgangSA and the steps she has taken to assert control of the organisation”. Machanick said the provincial leadership “further reject[ed] attempts to tarnish the reputation of our leader by unfounded defamatory accusations of fraud.”

According to Machanick, yesterday’s planned meeting was “divisive” and called for its organisers to cancel it. “In the event that they do not do so, we call on all provincial structures to withdraw from the meeting and to also express their unqualified support for Dr Mamphela Ramphele as president and leader of Agang SA,” he told Independent Online.

Late in the week, the party’s national spokesman Mark Peach accused Ramphele of fraud too. He said both Ramphele and Tshishonga both wanted to determine how the account “came to be”, adding: “We don’t know who opened the account, and it’s too early to say anything. Until an investigation has happened, we simply don’t know,” Peach said on Friday, according to IOL.

Peach reportedly said “… there would appear to have been the use of a scanned signature to open the account as neither Dr Ramphele nor Tshishonga signed original bank account documents on behalf of the party”. Now for a spokesman who should be the voice of the party, there is indeed a confusing message from the party, especially earlier in the week.

The counterclaims within AgangSA are in fact fuelling the perception of factionalism in the party.

At the same time, it is unfair for the party – especial for the communications department – to fail to indicate the standing point of the part on this matter instead of giving different messages.

It is true that those accusing Ramphele of crime while the investigation is still underway run the risk of being disciplined later should the leader be cleared of wrongdoing. Besides that, it is totally wrong and unacceptable to accuse her of such a crime without any shred of evidence.

UPDATE since this was first written on 16 June 2014:

  1. AgangSA Leader has announced her leaving politics, especially AgangSA, and returning to civil society,
  2. Tshishonga and Andries Tlouamma – seen as the faction dividing AgangSA – face internal disciplinary actions.

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