Marriage and divorce in a Twitter minute

RA’EESA PATHER scoured the interwebs to find out what South Africans are saying about the acrimonious fallout between the Democratic Alliance and Mamphela Ramphele.

A week in politics is a very long time – just ask Mamphela Ramphele. From Agang SA to DAgang and now back to plain old Agang, Ramphele has loped a significant walk around South Africa’s political neighbourhood. Her departure from the Democratic Alliance has left a bitter taste. with critics claiming her credibility has effectively been shredded.

But what do South Africans really think about the Mamphela Ramphele of the past week?

“She’s still the same person. This was just a mistake on her part and she’s only human. I think people should look past this and look at her competency,” says 21-year-old Wandisile Mkubukeli, a student at the University of Cape Town.

True to form, South African Twitter has had a field day lampooning Ramphele. Her most ardent supporters, however, still believe in her. Mkubukeli for one, maintains that the AgangSA leader still has the dexterity to become South Africa’s next great president.

“Ramphele stands for servant leadership. She stands for a truly free South Africa where the power lays in the hands of the people,” he explains.

Ramphele’s history in the black consciousness movement and her outspoken criticism of the ANC propelled her to the centre of the South African political storm.

AgangSA marked her formal political arrival, providing a new alternative to the DA-ANC scuffle.

Her move to become the DA’s presidential candidate, however, was met with mixed reactions.

“That partnership was so confusing to me. Ramphele was going to stand as president, but for a party I don’t believe in,” says Mkubukeli.

The kiss of controversy
He maintains that Agang is the best option for South Africans, and his support for Ramphele, but disheartenment of the DA, encompasses the conflicting separation of individual and party, and its impact on voter support. Ramphele’s marriage to Zille was sealed with the kiss of controversy, yet, despite the furor, some voters still saw the potential behind the relationship.

“What is unreal about creating a strong Opposition in a country that needs one? ‘She was merely the black face,’ they said,” writes Siya Khumalo, a 26-year-old admin worker by day and blogger by night.

For Khumalo, the need for a strong opposition perfectly balanced Agang’s expenses, yet Ramphele’s behaviour has dispelled some voter support.

“Let your ‘Yes’ be a ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be a ‘No’. I could have voted for Agang. Now I know better. You’re indecisive and maybe unreliable,” the Durbanite wrote in his open letter to the AgangSA leader on his political blog, “Sanity Thinks Out Loud”.

“I know three things – that we need a healthy Opposition, the DA was the only strong candidate, and Ramphele’s move could lose them a lot of credibility, and unnecessarily so. I find it politically unethical,” Khumalo adds.

To sum it up, the marriage has been dissolved (although without a signed contract it may never have been a marriage to begin with), and the kids are unimpressed.

Yet some, like Mkubukeli, remain hopeful.

“I am for what she stands for and envisions for this nation. I still love her. She’s made a couple of mistakes recently, but that hasn’t deterred my opinion and thoughts about her. I still believe in her and think she’s important for the future of this nation,” he says.

For others, Ramphele has created a new wave of political cynicism.

Critics have questioned the so-called “born frees” and accused them of apathy. The case of Mamphela Ramphele begs another question: are the youth disinterested or are political parties and figures simply unworthy of their vote?

The sentiment is echoed in Khumalo’s words: “You’ve (Ramphele) just become another one of “them” – a failed politician. We have more than enough of those and we are sick of them.”

Ra’eesa Pather is a reporter for South Africa Votes 2014 based in Cape Town. Follow her on Twitter.