Mamphela Ramphele has relinquished her post as chairperson of the Gold Fields board of directors in what could be clearing her path to launch herself into party politics.
Ramphele has sharpened criticism against the ANC government in the past few months fuelling speculation that she is about to launch a new political party.
The mining giant announced yesterday that Ramphele has announced her resignation from the Company’s Board of Directors with immediate effect. “Dr Ramphele has decided to retire as Chair to further her socio-economic and political work. She has resigned from most of her private sector directorships and will relinquish all other remaining private sector directorships and positions to focus on these activities”.
Interestingly Gold Fields non-executive director Cheryl Carolus, a former high ranking ANC activist, will succeed Ramphele as Chair of the Company with immediate effect. Carolus was appointed a director of Gold Fields on 10 March 2009. She is also Executive Chair of Peotona Group Holdings and is a director of Investec and De Beers, amongst others. The Carolus factor in this Ramphele story is interesting in laying bare the intersection between politics and business in the post 1994 South Africa. The plot thickens if you add to this the rise of Cyril Ramaphosa into deputy presidency of the ANC and as a presidential hopeful.
If Ramphele moves as expected, she will bring into the political party arena a solid anti-apartheid activism that was shaped alongside black consciousness movement (BCM) legend Steve Biko in the 1970’s. She has however migrated her ideological outlook away from hardcore BCM and more towards the centre, positioning her more to the right of the ANC and probably left from the Democratic Alliance.
A critical look at the party political space she might occupy will suggest that, it is already a crowded space and her mission will not really offer a real alternative to voters outside personality driven politics. But then she might bring into the space a special character which contributed towards the rise of leaders like the president of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and the President of Malawi Joice Banda. There stands a potentially powerful political character, made of black womanhood, that when carefully crafted can make for a near perfect tripartite subversive paradigm. But then the intersections between race, class and gender politics are quite complex and may only be useful for politcal scientists not necessarily for politicians.