JOHANNESBURG -- Mamphela Ramphele, a respected veteran of the struggle against apartheid, announced Monday that she had formed a new political party to compete against the governing African National Congress, calling on South Africans to "join me on a journey to build the country of our dreams."
The party is called Agang, a Sotho word meaning "build." In recent years, Ms. Ramphele, 65, a medical doctor who became an anti-apartheid activist and a leader of the Black Consciousness Movement, has focused on social activism and business. Until last week, she served as the chairwoman of Gold Fields, a major mining company.
The new party is the latest in a string of challengers to the dominance of the ANC, which has handily won every national election since apartheid ended in 1994, but has come under increasing scrutiny over charges of corruption and poor governance. In addition, inequality has grown in South Africa since the end of apartheid, despite the party's pledge to bring "a better life for all." The country's education system is in a shambles.
Dr. Ramphele forcefully argued to an audience at the old Women's Jail in Johannesburg that the government had failed to deliver, and she vowed to tackle corruption head on.
"The country of our dreams has unfortunately faded," she said in her speech. "The dream has faded for the many living in poverty and destitution in our increasingly unequal society. And perhaps worst of all, my generation has to confess to the young people of our country: We have failed you. We have failed to build for you an education and training system to prepare you for life in the 21st century."
That refrain echoes the criticisms of other opposition parties, including the Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party, which was reported to have courted Dr. Ramphele, seeking to put a prominent and well-respected black leader atop what is still perceived as a largely white party, despite its gains in urban black townships.
In an interview, Dr. Ramphele said she opted to start her own movement because South Africa needed a fresh start. "The country needs a new beginning," she said. "It is not going to happen with the current players."
Dr. Ramphele has been a fixture in South African public life for decades. She had a close relationship with the Black Consciousness activist Steve Biko, who died in police custody in 1977, having two children with him. The apartheid government banished her for seven years to the village of Lenyenye, in a bleak northern corner of the country, for her political activism.
Undeterred, she started a small clinic that treated thousands of rural residents. She also earned anthropology and business degrees. When apartheid ended, she was named the University of Cape Town's vice chancellor, the first black person to hold the post. She later became a managing director of the World Bank, and in recent years, she has been sought after as a corporate board member.