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Manufacturing Indaba 2018

Starting a political party 101

It's not news to say that many South Africans of all races are pretty fed up with our current government. Let's face it, not a week goes by without yet another scandal over fraud, corruption and non-delivery of services.
Our education and health systems are pretty much down the tubes - the list is endless. So it was with bated breath on Monday, along with many others that I waited for the announcement by esteemed academic and former activist, Dr Mamphela Ramphele.

What an opportunity - a full house of local and international press hanging on to her every word. So the big question is did she meet our expectations? Does she have what it takes to turn this country around into the vision that we all had in 1994?

She knows what's wrong with the country - but then again so do we all. She knows what should be done to change things - but then so do most of us. The big question then arises - does she have the political, business and financial clout and support to do this?

Still in the dark

Well, this is where we're all still in the dark. There have been reports of her talking to people both here and overseas but given the fact that she's got a whole five people, all volunteers, working in her office currently, one has to wonder if these promises have yet morphed into money.

Her history tells us she certainly understands politics, but is that enough to turn the wheels of a political party's machinery? What does it take to make a party work? We know what it takes to make a party fail - we've seen this in action with COPE and other smaller parties that have come and gone. Mind you at this point she has said it's not a party as much as a political platform to consult with South Africans on how to take her ideas forward. Easy words but only tangible actions will tell.

It certainly takes more than just money and passion. It takes major public relations and spin. My first thought on seeing the good doctor in action yesterday was who chose that outfit? Yes, I know it's a traditional outfit which generally is highly flattering but something was amiss here. And it didn't take long for Twitter to come alive, not with quotes taken from her speech, but comments on her court jester look.

It's certainly not looks that create great leaders - so what is it? And it doesn't come about because you're a good person, which I'm sure she is, with wonderful intentions for this country.

We don't yet more promises - we want action

It's not enough to say this is what should be done. In South Africa people are fed up with promises - they want to know how it's going to be done and when. Much of what she said, such as the restructuring of the electoral system in order to give back accountability to the voters is a brilliant idea - one that has worked worldwide and used to work here. But with 2014 elections around the corner and given the fact that the Electoral Commission have yet to hear from her, this seems like just a good idea.

When questioned by interviewers such as Jeremy Maggs and John Robbie about transparency she agreed this was a must for any party, but declined to give the names of her backers. Not a great start...

You see it's one thing to stand up and give a speech but quite another to face tough interviewers such as Jeremy and John amongst others. Then you have to have the answers and a clear vision and proof of how you're going to make it work.

Silent on tweets

She did say she was going to use the power of the social media and indeed her website is today up and running - which gives you the bare bones of what they stand for and an opportunity to contribute. They also show Tweets coming in and as of writing this (0930 19 February) they hadn't received one in the last ten hours...

Hopefully one of the five volunteers in her office right now has a background in marketing or public relations - because having conversations with South Africans around the country just won't be enough. I'm sure I echo most South Africans in saying we would love another party that could pose a real challenge to the ANC - but we need to know that the people involved have real power and an ability to make it happen.

About Marion Scher

Marion Scher ( is an award-winning journalist, lecturer, media trainer and consultant with 25 years' experience in the industry. For more of her writing, go to her Bizcommunity profile or to Twitter @marionscher.