Ram­phele looks to US for fund­ing for polls

Lob­by­ist hired to meet Amer­i­cans and get sup­port for AgangSA in 2014 elec­tions

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - THABISO THAKALI

AGANG South Africa leader Mam­phela Ram­phele has hired a US lob­by­ist to meet Amer­i­cans to raise funds and so­licit sup­port for her party.

Ac­cord­ing to a dec­la­ra­tion with the US Depart­ment of Jus­tice fed­eral lob­by­ist reg­istry, Ram­phele’s party has en­listed the ser­vices of lob­by­ist An­drew Sillen – a key fig­ure in the US – to ramp up her party’s pres­ence as it pre­pares to take on the ANC next year.

Sillen is a for­mer di­rec­tor of de­vel­op­ment at UCT, where he worked from 1985 to 2001. From 1997 to 2001, Sillen worked closely with Ram­phele, then a vice-chan­cel­lor at UCT.

Sillen is listed as the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of BuildSA, a firm that Agang SA de­scribed as “a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion”, and which is re­quired by US law to be reg­is­tered with the US Depart­ment of Jus­tice.

The reg­is­tra­tion by Agang, re­quired when for­eign gov­ern­ments or politi­cians hire lob­by­ists to in­flu­ence US pol­icy, in­di­cate that Ram­phele has hired Sillen to “ed­u­cate Amer­i­can cit­i­zens on the im­por­tance of form­ing a new South African party through speeches by Dr Ram­phele and other events”.

Lob­by­ists for for­eign politi­cians in the US have to reg­is­ter within 10 days. Sillen was reg- is­tered on Au­gust 17.

The terms of the agree­ment be­tween Agang and Sillen were not dis­closed, but lob­by­ists in the US charge up to R400 000 a month.

The reg­is­tra­tion of Agang’s for­eign agent to raise and so­licit funds from abroad is the first in­di­ca­tion yet of the party’s US links, de­spite de­nials by its leader, Ram­phele, in Fe­bru­ary that the party was for­eign-funded.

In June, it was re­ported that Agang had ap­pointed the Be­nen­son Strat­egy Group – the same team that helped US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to vic­tory in 2008 – to ad­vise the party on “elec­tion strat­egy” be­cause they were “the best” the party could find.

Yes­ter­day Agang spokesman Thabo Leshilo said that “as the only party that rep­re­sents all South Africans, there has been huge in­ter­est in AgangSA from fel­low cit­i­zens across the world”.

“Peo­ple want to know more about a party that stands for clean gov­ern­ment and that will up­hold the val­ues of hope, dig­nity and equal­ity,” he said. “In the US alone there are over 40 000 peo­ple of South African ori­gin, so BuildSA was es­tab­lished to sup­port the work of AgangSA by com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the di­as­pora about the cam­paign.”

Leshilo said BuildSA does not lobby the US gov­ern­ment or have any role to play in pol­i­tics in the US. It was a non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion re­quired by US law to be reg­is­tered with the US Depart­ment of Jus­tice.

“An­drew Sillen man­ages BuildSA in a part-time vol­un­tary ca­pac­ity, hav­ing been a sup­porter of AgangSA since our launch as a po­lit­i­cal plat­form in Fe­bru­ary this year,” he ex­plained. “Ev­ery vote will count in 2014 if we are (to) re­store the prom­ise of free­dom for cit­i­zens who have been wait­ing 20 years for a job and a home, safer streets, good health and a great ed­u­ca­tion. To­gether South Africans across the world can join hands and build a coun­try we are all proud to call home.”

In Fe­bru­ary, Ram­phele said the money to sup­port her party came “from South Africans right here at home”.

ANC sec­re­tary- gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe pre­vi­ously ac­cused Agang of be­ing funded from the US, and said it could pos­si­bly be used to desta­bilise the coun­try.

“The worry that we are rais­ing is that when th­ese ini­tia­tives were an­nounced, the founder was in the United States and an­nounced that she is rais­ing fund­ing,” Man­tashe had said.

Agang is not the first politi- cal party to have been listed on the US fed­eral reg­istry for us­ing lob­by­ists reg­is­tered in terms of the For­eign Agents Reg­is­tra­tion Act. Both the Inkatha Free­dom Party and the ANC once did the same.

The last time the ANC con­tracted a US lob­by­ing firm to help in its fight against apartheid was in 1991, ac­cord­ing to the reg­istry.

In Zim­babwe, op­po­si­tion leader Mor­gan Ts­van­garai’s Move­ment for Demo­cratic Change also em­ployed the ser­vices of sev­eral US lob­by­ists to ar­range meet­ings with in­flu­en­tial US pol­icy and law­mak­ers in its cam­paign against Robert Mu­gabe’s rule.

AF­TER FUNDS: Mam­phela Ram­phele, Agang leader.

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