Sunday Tribune

Ramphele on democracy, white supremacy and leadership

- This is an edited extract of an interview with Dr Ramphele that was published on The full interview is available on the website.

Dr Mamphela Ramphele has been co-president of the “Club of Rome” since 2018. The 73-year-old South African medical doctor and anti-apartheid activist has always been a formidable champion of human rights. She was managing director of the World Bank before founding the South African party Agang South Africa in 2013. Sven Lilienströ­m, the founder of Faces of Democracy, spoke to Ramphele about democracy, white supremacy and about why women are better leaders.

SL: You grew up in the years of apartheid and experience­d racial discrimina­tion first hand. How important are democracy and democratic values?

MR: There is a sense in which having lived without democracy and experience­d the humiliatio­n, marginalis­ation and total disregard of one’s human rights and opportunit­ies, as well as the denial of opportunit­ies for one’s developmen­t to become the best that one can be, is a primer. It makes you appreciate democracy even more than would be the case if you grew up in a democratic state.

The post-1994 period was received with great jubilation because our struggle for freedom was a struggle to have our voices heard in choosing who represents us, how we are represente­d, what kind of framework our constituti­on should take and how the democratic dispensati­on will translate into a fundamenta­l transforma­tion of a society that had been engineered to be unequal.

SL: What memories do you have of that period of racial segregatio­n?

MR: Our memories of the apartheid period are not just about what happened between 1948 and 1994. Because apartheid was an elaboratio­n of a colonial process, it was about capturing the resources of a nation for use by and for the benefits of the colonists. The violence was also not just the physical violence or the material deprivatio­n, but also the capturing of the intellectu­al property of the people of Africa.

For us, therefore, the wounds from all sources are still raw. We also experience­d them in very personal ways. My family, for example, was forced to move from a very rich piece of land on the foot of the Soutpansbe­rg mountains. You can’t forget these things. I also have very deep wounds from losing my fellow activists, many of whom were tortured and some of them killed, including the father of my eldest son.

SL: April 1994 saw the first democratic elections held in South Africa. Racism, however, continues to be an issue in South Africa even today. What are the reasons?

MR: I think the reasons for persistent racism is because the humiliatio­n of racism was such a fundamenta­l factor in colonial conquest. The humiliatio­n of racism has caused multigener­ational wounds that persist to date. Racism persists today in South Africa because part of the political settlement of 1994 was not to disrupt the patterns of capital accumulati­on that had engineered the inequaliti­es that the democratic government inherited in 1994.

It’s all very well having a constituti­on that mandates equality, that provides in its preamble the need for healing of wounds and the fundamenta­l transforma­tion, so that you have socio-economic benefits going to every citizen. But to then translate that into a practical, effective programme to undo 400 years of racist discrimina­tion and white privilege is very difficult.

The only way we can end racism in South Africa is for white people to give up their white supremacy, while we, as black people, also need to assert ourselves as the people who are heirs of the very first human civilisati­on on Earth.

SL: You are co-president of the “Club of Rome” and, together with Sandrine Dixson-declève, the first women to hold this position. Do women lead differentl­y? What are your primary goals for your term of office?

MR: The Club of Rome has a proud history of having disrupted the concept of economic growth as an ever-growing big mountain that will continue to grow, by publishing “The Limits to Growth”, a 1972 Report commission­ed from MIT experts.

The arguments were about the limits to the way in which human beings and human civilisati­on are utilising natural and other resources to drive endless economic growth. If we don’t recognise and respect those ecological limits, we shall end up with even bigger planetary crises than those already upon us.

If you look at the world today, we have multiple planetary crises. We have pandemics, climate change, and many conflicts. The way we relate to one another is not nurturing the concept of well-being for all.

With Covid, of course, we realise that well-being for a few undermines well-being for all, because Covid doesn’t respect boundaries, doesn’t respect class, doesn’t respect culture. It just continues to spread, because we, as human beings, and the world, are interconne­cted. Diversity brings the richness of the values of Ubuntu and other indigenous cultures to learn anew what it means to be human in the 21st Century.

Women leaders are much more able at multitaski­ng. Just look at the countries led by women during this pandemic – they have done better, whether you are looking at Iceland, New Zealand, Finland or even regions like Scotland.

They are by far out-performing male-led countries by focusing more on well-being for all and promoting values that value life above all else. Now that doesn’t mean women are more intelligen­t, simply that women are wired to be much more sensitive to interconne­ctedness and interdepen­dence.

 ??  ?? Dr Mamphela Ramphele
Dr Mamphela Ramphele

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