Johannesburg - A war of words between the ANC and new kid on the block Agang intensifies ahead of the 2014 general elections.
The government has disputed Agang leader Mamphela Ramphele's assertion that it has failed the youth by mismanaging the education system.
"The statement made by... Ramphele regarding education as reported in the media is not only baseless, but devoid of truth," the department of basic education said on Thursday.
"Her unfounded rants demonstrate further the sheer lack of understanding and appreciation of the education sector on the part of one who claims academic standing."
Ramphele said earlier in the day that solving South Africa's education problems required political will, which the current government lacked.
Speaking to reporters after addressing the opening of African Education Week in Johannesburg, Ramphele said the government had spent R230 billion on education and the country was not getting value for money.
She said the government's claim that the legacy of apartheid had inhibited change within the education system was an excuse.
"Twenty years is too long for anyone to say the legacy of another system is holding them back," Ramphele said.
"[It's] simply an excuse which has now reached past its sell-by-date. It is not apartheid that said 30 percent is good enough to pass. It is not apartheid that said 40 percent is good enough to pass."
She questioned the tender system for textbooks, suggesting that textbooks be bought directly, and that more technology, such as tablet computers, be brought into the classroom.
The department said Ramphele "deliberately elected to be petty and misleading" in her criticism of post-apartheid South Africa.
"The facts indicate that, under the leadership of Minister Angie Motshekga, there have been huge improvements in education," it said.
"We have uplifted our people from disadvantaged communities more than she can ever imagine."
It said allegations that the textbook system was a means for money-laundering were "serious".
"We therefore challenge Dr Ramphele to provide evidence and motivate her claims or the... [department] would be left with no option but to request the Human Rights Commission to investigate this allegation," it said.
"Only reckless and desperate cheap politicking can blind anyone to such clear, simple, overt and logical facts. We refuse to be used as a stepping-stone in the promotion of any new forum."
Agang SA is expected to be launched as a political party in Pretoria on Saturday.