Ramphele looks to US for funding for polls
Lobbyist hired to meet Americans and get support for AgangSA in 2014 elections
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.