ULTIMATUMS usually end badly, especially in politics The Democratic Alliance’s pushing and shoving of presidential candidate Mamphela Ramphele this week, which saw the alliance forcing South Africa’s first black female presidential nomination to walk the plank on Monday, does not bode well for South Africa’s opposition.
Instead of a win-win situation, we are left with a lose-lose predicament in which both parties are taking flack from critics. The “game-changing” moment which promised a realignment of the political landscape has instead turned into a stark example of Bolwerism.
In negotiations with labour unions, it is an offer which is ultimate and to which no further revisions will be made. When Helen Zille “fired” her party’s only Presidential nomination, after a technical committee had spent barely hours attempting to thrash out a deal on Sunday which could have resulted in a win-win, political, face-saving solution, she was also firing her party’ hope for a future in which a black president drawn from the opposition has a chance of victory in the 2014 general election.
There are also bound to be consequences for labour to ending a professional relationship with a woman who has been highly critical of the use of cheap black labour to fund industrial capital in South Africa. Most recently Ramphele critiqued the mining industry, saying it was still stuck in the 19th century. Although Ramphele was once a non-executive director at Anglo American, in the light of Marikana, she requested to step down from the board with effect from 25 July 2012 in order to concentrate her efforts on her educational and societal interests.
Embarking on a campaign in South Africa’s rural heartland, Mamphele has been tackling the migrant labour system underpinning the nation’s economy.
Voters are left wondering if Zille forgot that it is an election year. Instead her “take it or leave it” ultimatum– a demand whose fulfillment is requested in a specified period of time and which is backed up by a threat to be followed through in case of noncompliance — is bound to result in more questions than answers, raising doubts about the integrity of her leadership.
A combined electoral college of the country’s opposition parties, in which each party canvassed votes to elect a Presidential candidate, who would first sit in the House of Assembly before rising to the National Executive, under a unified opposition coalition, or super-party, would have easily solved the political impasse and revolt within her own party.