Rise Mzansi’s Vuyiswa Ramokgopa: ‘We want to rebuild, unite SA’

Henry

Rise Mzansi is a new player in the political arena and one that is quickly starting to make big waves.

The year-old party, which is led by former news editor and businessman Songezo Zibi, will compete in this year’s national election, as well as in all nine provinces.

Vuyiswa Ramokgopa (38), Rise Mzansi’s chairman and prime ministerial candidate for Gauteng, spoke to RNews this week about the dreams and plans the party has for South Africa, and in particular for Gauteng. This province will undoubtedly be a hotly contested province in this year’s election and will most likely not be governed by one party alone from now on either.

“This year’s election is a watershed election. Hence our slogan ‘2024 is our 1994’. Since 1994, there has not been a bigger and more important election than this year’s.”

Ramokgopa says it is therefore important that every registered voter draws their crosses on 29 May.

This businesswoman, entrepreneur and mother of three young children says that South Africa is currently facing a huge leadership problem – with politicians who are dividing South Africans and destroying the country.

She does not come from a political family (despite her married surname) and considers herself – and also Rise Mzansi’s leadership – as ordinary people who want to rebuild South Africa for generations to come.

“The realization that one, as a citizen, cannot just sit back and watch is one of the big reasons why Rise Mzansi came into existence.”

She says Rise Mzansi also consists of ordinary people, some from academia and others from the business sector or civil society, who have decided it is time to raise their hands.

“We asked ourselves ‘what can we do?’. It’s not good enough to just be successful (in a profession). I am a mother, I have three children. I want my children to have the opportunity to grow up safely in South Africa and to have access to the beautiful country in which I myself grew up.

“And unfortunately it’s starting to look less and less possible,” says Ramokgopa.

“There is a sense of urgency among us (Rise Mzansi) to resolve the political leadership crisis, and you cannot do that from outside the room.”

Ramokgopa says the country needs a sweeping turnaround and leaders – even in a coalition government – who are committed to rebuilding the country.

Gauteng is SA’s ‘golden egg’

She is also convinced that Gauteng is the best starting place to get the country back on track.

Ramokgopa explains that Gauteng, with its 16 million people, is still to a large extent the economic engine of the country. This province has the densest population in the country and it is mainly an urban population.

It is also the place where nationwide problems such as unemployment, homelessness and housing shortages are felt most strongly, according to Ramokgopa.

However, it is also the place where people turn to pursue a new life and new opportunities.

“If we want to turn the country around, we have to start with Gauteng. Gauteng is therefore critically important in this election. Of course also KwaZulu-Natal.”

Ramokgopa has no doubt that Gauteng will be extremely divided in the provincial election.

“What we want to avoid at all costs is the chaos we saw in metros like Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni. We, as Rise Mzansi, believe that as a medium-sized player we can be an anchor for a stable coalition government after 2024.”

She says the province and country now need ethical leaders with integrity “like Rise Mzansi”.

Nation building high on the agenda

Rise Mzansi also wants to be a home for all South Africans; the goal of establishing a non-racial South Africa is therefore high on the party’s priority list, says Ramokgopa.

“Over the past ten to 15 years, the project of nation building has largely been left behind. I was lucky to be a child in 1994, when democracy was born.

“In recent years, however, we have seen national pride and identity crumble. And politicians exploit it. They thrive on division. However, Rise Mzansi is committed to the principle of non-racialism and wants to re-establish it in the political discourse. After all, this is the core of South Africa and who we are: We are diverse. This is our strength, our superpower.”

Ramokgopa says she had the privilege of growing up among people of different cultures, races, genders, class and status and still lives in this diversity – she appreciates differences and sees the beauty in them.

Oppenheimers donate big

In addition to a diverse leadership structure, the party already has support from many different people and organizations outside of it.

RNews previously reported that Rise Mzansi received more than R16.7 million in donations between October 1 and December 31 last year, of which Rebecca Oppenheimer, granddaughter of mining magnate Harry Oppenheimer, donated R15 million.

Oppenheimer has previously made similar donations to parties such as the DA and ActionSA.

Ramokgopa says the party is incredibly grateful for these donations, as funding makes a huge difference to a party’s campaign, projects and ability to garner support.

This is of course accompanied by good leadership and honorable intentions, she says.

“You can have the necessary financial resources, but if you don’t have a viable and workable political offer, it will fall flat. Money alone is not going to get you over the finish line, you also have to have the good ideas and good people who are supported by these resources.”

The national and provincial elections take place this year on 29 May. More than 27 million people are registered to participate in the election.