Mamphela Ramphele’s new political party, AgangSA is making high level corruption a political issue in the run-up to South Africa’s 2014 national elections. Her party has called for a minimum sentence of fifteen years for any public official convicted of corruption, and the same for any member of the public convicted of corrupting a public official. She is also calling for new legislation that would prohibit government officials and their families from doing business with the government. In her travels around the country, she is visiting townships and “informal” (shack) settlements, where she highlights the fact that the principal victims of corruption are the very poor.
She is emphasizing that corruption in South Africa starts at the very top of the African National Congress (ANC), the ruling party. She has repeatedly called on South African president Jacob Zuma to make public his personal assets. He has declined to do so. In August, she published her net worth as R55,436,063 (US$5.6 million), and said that her salary for the tax year ending in February 2013 was R346,000 (US$35,000). This is down from previous years, she said, because she had resigned from various corporate boards to prepare to contest the 2014 elections.
However, the Mail and Guardian reports that two years ago, Forbes estimated her wealth at over US$50 million, ten times as much as she now claims. AgangSA is calling on Forbes to explain its estimate while Forbes is sticking to its story. The Mail and Guardian is asking why Ramphele did not deny the Forbes estimate when it first appeared.
Taking at face value Ramphele’s U.S.$5.6 million figures, as I do, it is still clear that she is wealthy. In her public statement, she noted that like Nelson Mandela, she was a liberation leader who was not born poor. She has been a medical doctor, an academic, an entrepreneur, and has served on many boards.
President Zuma is tarred with unresolved accusations of personal corruption. Ramphele and AgangSA are running on a “good government” platform and seek to attract the votes of South Africa’s black consumer class that is increasingly concerned about corruption within the ANC.