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Failed Political Marriage; "My Goal Is to Get Rid of Hunger"; Imagine a World

Aired February 7, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour and welcome to the weekend edition of our program, where we choose two of the stories that we've covered this week.

First, a bright new future for the South African opposition came and went with breathtaking speed and with it the first serious challenge to the mighty ANC, which has dominated politics and power in the post-apartheid era.

Tuesday was supposed to have been the day two opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance and Agang SA embarked on their Together for Change campaign.

Just last week, those two party leaders embraced as they announced a merger that sent a shiver of excitement and expectation through the nation.

The first, Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, an anti-apartheid activist, successful business woman, former World Bank official and partner of the late freedom fighter Steve Biko, also is leader of Agang SA.

The other, Helen Zille, leader of the Democratic Alliance and well- known anti-apartheid journalist, who broke the news of Biko's violent death at the hands of police in prison.

But on Monday, excitement turned to dismay as these two old friends announced a quickie divorce. The move not only raises questions about the health of South African democracy, but about the future of these two formidable women, who head the parties.

First, I asked Dr. Ramphele what went wrong and whether the face of South African politics will change anytime soon.


AMANPOUR: Dr. Ramphele, thank you very much for joining me.


AMANPOUR: This does not seem to be a massively auspicious moment in opposition politics in South Africa.

Indeed, the ANC, who I assume you're all trying to, you know, make inroads into, has today called what's happened between you and the DA a tragicomic melodrama.

Isn't the only winner out of this breakdown the ANC, who you're trying to whittle away their power?

RAMPHELE: Absolutely. It is a sad moment, Christiane, but the DA and Agang couldn't find a way of forging a partnership for change that we are now not choosing. And the failure is a reflection of different understandings of the opportunity.

The opportunity is that 13 million people in 2009 didn't vote for the ANC nor the DA and that Agang represents a new home, a fresh start, not tainted by the baggage of the past. That has excited many silent people in South Africa, people who had lost their voice; people who had lost hope wanted to see it.

But we failed to come to agreement about the process by which we could collaborate and address the structural issues that were involved in us working together.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you to react to what Helen Zille, head of the DA, has said.

"By going back on the deal just five days after it was announced, Ms. Ramphele has demonstrated once and for all that she cannot be trusted to see any project through to its conclusion. And this is a great pity."

And some veteran political commentators are saying that this has put a fatal blow to your political future.

How bad is this for you?

RAMPHELE: What is bad is that in the rush to conclude the deal, Helen started talking in terms of take it or leave it. You cannot negotiate on the basis of take it or leave it. People in this country put human dignity and respect for the other very high.

AMANPOUR: Do you take any blame for this divorce, this political divorce?

RAMPHELE: I take the blame for the fact that we need not come to an agreement which I regard as a great opportunity for South Africa.

But at the end of the day, leaders have to listen to their members. And in the Agang value system, I cannot bind Agang to a merger with the DA without consulting with the national leadership conference.

AMANPOUR: You keep talking about the consultations, but the real big picture is that this, many are saying, shows the failure of the opposition in general to try to do something different than have ANC in power for a long, long time.

And people are now saying it is going to take a long, long time to change the current balance of power.

RAMPHELE: We don't believe that, because we know that the ANC is the minority government. It's governing with 38 percent of the eligible vote.

We continue to believe that the ease and opportunity for us to get those people who have never voted or who don't want to vote or who will not vote for the ANC to vote for this fresh start.

And I believe that people appreciate a leader who is prepared to say I made a mistake. And I should have consulted first and then made the decision.

That I take responsibility for.

But the fact of the matter is, the country has lost an opportunity to transcend identity politics and that I'm very sad about.

AMANPOUR: And very briefly, personally, Helen Zille was a friend of yours. She was a leading anti-apartheid journalist. She wrote incredibly incisive articles about your late partner, Steve Biko.

Can you be friends still?

RAMPHELE: Yes, of course. This is not personal. This is not about - - a disagreement doesn't mean that we can't be friends. And we have left the door open.

There might still be an opportunity for the DA and Agang to work together because the country cannot afford continued fragmentation. The only winner of this identity politics crisis or press is the ANC.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Ramphele, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

RAMPHELE: Thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: So will there be another chance at a partnership?

Turning right now to the Democratic Alliance, which has also taken its share of knocks for the botched merger, Lindiwe Mazibuko is the DA's parliamentary leader and she's joining me right now from Johannesburg.

Welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Let me start by asking you, the leader of the party, Helen Zille, had called this just a week ago a game-changer, this merger. It now looks like it's anything but, that it is politics as usual and ANC monopoly and domination of politics as usual.

They're the only winners, right?

MAZIBUKO: They are the only winners if the opposition fails in the long term to realign itself in a way that will present a credible challenge to the ANC, yes.

And that was the reason, A, that the sort of game-changer and, B, that we proceeded with such vigor, because it was our best chance at accelerating the process by which an opposition government would peacefully take over at the ballot box.

So it's a real tragedy that it didn't work out because of that.

AMANPOUR: Well, you were in the negotiations. You helped put this partnership together, which has now sort of got a quickie divorce.

Is there any chance that you might do it again?

Dr. Ramphele just told me that she's holding out hope that perhaps there's another opportunity to merge in the future.

MAZIBUKO: Yes. Look, I think I -- we're politicians and we're people. And I have to say that the DA is very bruised as a result of this.

From our side, we do feel that a lot of the agreements that we made with Dr. Ramphele were reneged upon by her, that there wasn't necessarily an open card negotiation or discussion.

And in retrospect, I think the signs that this was not the same process for both sides were actually -- they started to emerge just as we were about to launch.

So it's a huge disappointment for us. And I can categorically state that it'll certainly not be in the offing in the future.

We tried everything possible to respond to the South African voters' desire for a realigned opposition. We've done it with other political parties, the ID in particular, and Patricia de Lille, who's now the mayor of Cape Town.

But we certainly will not be pursuing this negotiation with Agang again. We really did everything in our power to make it work. But it simply was not viable.

AMANPOUR: Well, Dr. Ramphele has said that she thought she was rushed into this without being able to consult her members.

Let me ask you this, though.

Isn't this really a knock for you politically?

I mean, didn't you actually want to go after her because she's a respected black leader, because the DA, for all its black politicians, is still considered a sort of a bastion of white interests?

Wasn't this meant to transcend that image that you have?

And where does it leave you?

MAZIBUKO: It certainly was something that we pursued because, on the one hand, Dr. Ramphele shares the liberal democratic values of our political party. It made no sense for her to be the leader of another political party.

In addition, she was actually the catalyst that led to our merger with the Independent Democrats and Patricia de Lille. So she understands the need for realignment.

And then, thirdly, she approached us. She approached us twice, once in 2011 and again at the end of last year. So we felt on our side that there was an appetite from her to actually make this happen. And it was just a question of finding the right time.

Why would she have been valuable for the DA? Well, because unlike, you know, a number of the ANC leaders, we are not seen as a party that has leaders who are steeped in the liberation struggle.

We have many, many good liberals who participated in the fight against apartheid, in the progressive party, in the liberal parties of the predecessors of our party.

But there has yet to be somebody from outside the DA with a deep struggle history, who put their hat in with our party and say, this is a political party I can trust. I want to go into the next election with them.

We felt that that would be a game-changer because it would put to rest that fear amongst many South Africans that a party that has white leaders in it will necessarily bring us back to apartheid.

AMANPOUR: Well, that's very frank of you.

So where does that leave you now?

I mean, for instance, Dr. Ramphele has said that she believes that there are millions of South Africans who will never vote for the DA and will only vote for her party.

Are you now worried, going into the election that, again, votes will be taken away from you and, as I said, the ANC remains cemented in power, that the opposition has failed, at least for the next election cycle, to dent the ANC politically?

MAZIBUKO: I don't think that this will necessarily hamper our ability to dent the ANC. I think we were on track to make that happen, regardless of whether this merger took place. I think this merger was going to give us that much more potential.

We're also satisfied that we tried everything we could. We can -- we can never look back at this chapter and feel like we didn't do everything in our power to make this partnership work and make it happen and make it successful.

And I think that's also an important thing, that when things don't work out, you have to admit the mistakes that took place. You have to cut the losses where you can and move forward as decisively as possible. That's what we're committed to doing now.

AMANPOUR: Lindiwe Mazibuko, the DA's parliamentary leader, thank you for joining me from Johannesburg.

MAZIBUKO: Thanks very much.


AMANPOUR: Many South Africans relish the idea of a credible challenge to President Jacob Zuma and his party, which are charged with corruption and ineptitude. Many are also still waiting for their nation's wealth of natural resources to fulfill the promise of a better life for everyone.

Over 31 percent of South Africans still live below the poverty line. But hunger also lurks in unexpected places; a shocking 50 million Americans never know where their next meal is coming from and coming up, my interview with an unusual champion of the hungry, putting food on the political table, making it a voting issue. That's when we return.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Washington has just dealt another cruel blow to working class American families who are struggling to keep food on the table.

This week, the U.S. Senate passed a trillion-dollar farm bill which cuts $8 billion from food stamps, which are a vital part of America's already tattered safety net.

So 50 million people in the world's richest country are hungry and they never know where their next meal will come from.

But Tom Colicchio, one of America's premier chefs and star of the popular food program, "Top Chef," wants to rebrand hunger by holding politicians accountable.

He produced a documentary on the topic, called "A Place at the Table."



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't received a pay raise in four years. And what I used to spend on a month in groceries now gets me about two weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's amazing how the need has increased.

JEFF BRIDGES, ACTOR: Charity's a great thing. But it's not the way to end hunger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're weakening our nation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't really know what to do.


AMANPOUR: Now making this documentary, Colicchio realized that charity, even on the largest scale, will never be more than a Band-Aid. He told me when we met this week at the upscale Landmarc Restaurant in New York how he plans to set the table for change.


AMANPOUR: Tom Colicchio, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Here we are in a nice upscale Manhattan restaurant and we're going to talk about hunger in this country; 50 million Americans are in what you call -- what we call food insecurity.

How is that possible in this rich nation?

COLICCHIO: Well, it's possible because we don't have programs that support poor people. We, at one point, pretty much got rid of hunger in this country and then the ideology changed. We started talking about a thousand points of light and we started talking about charity can take care of the ills of society.

AMANPOUR: So the government --

COLICCHIO: And it didn't work.

AMANPOUR: -- and it left it --


AMANPOUR: -- up to people.

COLICCHIO: Yes. Exactly.

AMANPOUR: And it didn't work.

COLICCHIO: No, it didn't. It didn't work. We saw hunger come back to the point where it's near epidemic proportions.

When you have a sixth of the population that struggles to feed themselves, not only that, but when you have a sixth of the population that can't really participate in the American dream, you start questioning whether or not the American dream is pretty much over.

AMANPOUR: And these are not people who are homeless. These are actually, most of them, employed.

COLICCHIO: No, and I'm glad you said that because when you talk to the average person you start talking about hungry people, they'll automatically go to the homeless, oh, homeless people are hungry. They have no idea that these are working people. These are people who are working.

More than the majority of people who receive food stamps have at least one member of the family working. And so this is a -- this is a problem of equality. It's really a problem of civil rights, I believe.

AMANPOUR: You're obviously impassioned about this. And you talked about individuals not being able to do what government should do.

But you are an individual. You've been trying to do this. You're a top chef. You're a well-known person. You've put all your resources to this.

How are you changing, then, how you lobby to alleviate hunger?

COLICCHIO: Well, we started, along with Ken Cook from the Environmental Working Group, something called Food Policy Action. And Food Policy Action, sort of our goal is to take the food movement and change it from a social movement into a political movement.

And we do that in various ways. We have a scorecard. So we're grading Congress on how they vote around food issues.

AMANPOUR: And how do you force those politicians to make this or to accept that this will be a voting issue?

COLICCHIO: Well, you got to get people to start going to the polls and voting. It's really frustrating to me that you had, at the last presidential election, you had 23 primary debates and three presidential debates. Not one mention of hunger.

AMANPOUR: The farm bill that's going through the Senate, should the president sign it? It slashes so much for those who are struggling with hunger.

COLICCHIO: No, I think the president should veto this bill. You know, a farm bill should do two things. It should support farmers, and farmers as we kind of think of farmers, small farmers.

And it shouldn't make one person hungrier.

This is -- this is a terrible bill. And at the same time it makes hungry people hungrier.

So you know, if you want to -- if you want to do the big giveaway, don't take it off the backs of hungry people. It's just not a good idea. I would really urge the president not to sign this bill.

AMANPOUR: What turned you on to this? You are, as I say, a top chef. I mean, you're used to providing luxury food for high-paying clients.

COLICCHIO: Yes. It's not just me, but I think most chefs feel that people should have adequate food and healthy food and it should be accessible --


AMANPOUR: Did you start feeling guilty? Did you start seeing food waste? What -- ?

COLICCHIO: No. Going back to 25 years ago, 30 years ago, for as long as I've been a chef in New York, we have been -- when I say we, collectively, many chefs in New York and across the country raise money for hunger-related issues, working through fundraisers mostly.

And it wasn't until my wife started working on a film, "A Place at the Table," that I sort of changed my thinking around hunger and realized that it's a political condition, not so much a condition that we can get -- we can't food bank our way out of this.

You know --

AMANPOUR: It has to be bigger, organized and politically organized.

COLICCHIO: Yes. Well, it has to -- the government has to step in to fix it. And the only way now to get government to do this is to make government do it.

AMANPOUR: And how do you make government do it? You want people to score congresspeople -- but you also need to advertise, don't you? Or you need to get the message out.

You've made this film. But is that enough?

COLICCHIO: Well, the film -- on the film side of it, we're actually working with a company called Media Invest (ph) and we are starting a campaign to rebrand hunger.

AMANPOUR: How do you rebrand hunger?

COLICCHIO: Rebrand hunger, well, look to understand who's hungry, why they're hungry.

You know, the idea that people are hungry because they're lazy and they don't want to work, that's just not true. The average person is on food stamps for only nine months. The average person who is on food stamps was working the year before and the year after.

This is not a handout. This is a -- it's an investment. It's an investment in people. It's an investment in our -- in our country. You know, hunger becomes a health care issue as well. We spent about $168 billion because of health -- because of food-related diseases in this country.

My goal is to just get rid of hunger in this country, not to just put a Band-Aid on it, not to manage hunger. And the only way to rid the country of hunger is through strong government programs.

AMANPOUR: And can one?

COLICCHIO: I believe they can. Yes. I -- we did it before. We could do it again.

See, that's what's so -- that's what's so amazing about this problem, it's solvable. You know, it's not like the AIDS epidemic and it's not like, you know, the track for problems that you're seeing in Syria right now, in the Middle East, and it's a problem that we've solved before. We could do it again. It just takes political will and courage.

AMANPOUR: Tom Colicchio, thank you very much indeed for joining me.



AMANPOUR: And as Tom Colicchio just said, we did it before and we can do it again. It happened back in 1968, when a gripping U.S. TV news report on hunger in America cast an unblinking eye on 10 million Americans back then who went to bed hungry every night.

The outrage that followed prompted President Richard Nixon -- no one's idea of a soft touch -- to challenge the U.S. Congress to take action.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The central question has been whether we as a nation would accept the problem of malnourishment as a national responsibility. On May 6th, I asserted to the Congress that the moment is at hand to put an end to hunger in America itself for all time.


AMANPOUR: With the kind of bipartisan support unheard of today, Congress then expanded the food stamp program, making it much more accessible and eliminating some of the most extreme pockets of hunger in America.

Now imagine if that power to change could be channeled today. We'll do just that when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, Jesus said that the poor are always with you and in the Book of Revelations, famine is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

But imagine a world where hunger is not gospel and the unflinching eye of the camera has the power to bring about sweeping change.

Eight years before the documentary, "Hungry in America," shocked the country, the legendary correspondent Edward R. Murrow, who famously covered the London Blitz in World War II, exposed the fight of migrant workers in America in the groundbreaking documentary called, "Harvest of Shame."


EDWARD R. MURROW, BROADCAST JOURNALIST: These are the forgotten people, the underprotected, the undereducated, the underclothed, the underfed.


AMANPOUR: It first aired on Thanksgiving Day 1960, and it stirred the conscience of a bountiful nation with haunting black-and-white images that still move us half a century later.

The faces of those who harvested America's food and yet lived in squalor on its crumbs also reached the inner circles of Washington.


MURROW: The Secretary of Labor looked at the migrant plight and said.

JAMES P. MITCHELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF LABOR: I think they're the great mass of what I called the excluded Americans. They are people who cry out, the workers and their children and their wives, who cry out for some assistance and whose plight is a shame. It's a shame in America.


AMANPOUR: Public outcry back then led Congress to pass legislation to provide health care and education for farm workers and their families. And still Americans find themselves as we've just reported in a land of plenty where too many still go hungry.

Whether it's the United States of America or Syria or the whole world, some words bear repeating, "We did it before. And we can do it again."

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.