Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mamphela Ramphele Interview: GIBS Forecast 2009

Activist, academic and businesswoman, Mampela Ramphele speaks to David Ansara at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). The occasion is the annual 'Forecast' debate, looking to the year ahead in anticipation of what awaits South Africa in the near future.

: Okay, we’re walking here with Dr Mamphela Ramphele and she has just given her presentation from the Forecast 2009. Dr. Ramphele, what were some of your impressions from tonight?


DA: If you could just tell us about what you think of this kind of culture of shared commonalities and values. How do you think South Africans should try and strive towards a kind of more shared national identity?

MR: I believe that this country is sitting on a huge potential to be great in the true sense of the word ‘greatness’. And that greatness is not going to come from us trying to be like any other country because we are an African country that has got particular endowments that are different from the rest of the continent. We have a super-modern economy, we’ve got huge potential to grow from a diversity of cultures that no other African country has and also the connectedness to the global environment.

Yet, we are not competitive, in part because we have failed to rise to our opportunities. In dealing with our challenges we have tended to shoot ourselves in the foot. So lets take the example of the inheritance of Mandela, the international icon. And with that as your asset base you should be absolutely soaring into the sky.

DA: Do you think we have squandered our moral capital?

MR: I don’t think we have squandered it; we have just not yet leveraged it. Because it’s there, it’s like a heritage, you know, unless it’s money. But it’s there and if you return to it you can actually build on it. And I believe that we can build on that heritage to say as an African country with these particular endowments, a third of the GDP of Africa, what can we do that will make us as a country better, the continent better? And I think our greatest asset are our people. People who need to be highly educated, highly skilled and appreciative of diversity as a strength and not a weakness.

DD: So the coming elections next year, do you see that people are going to participate in the creation of a more public and open space or are there some worrying signs of political intolerance? Do you think those are overstated perhaps?

MR: I think it all depends on you and I as citizens. If you and I give the message to every politician that comes knocking at our door or our street or our village or our town to say what are your values? What are you offering to address the challenges that we face? What is your vision? How is that vision married to our founding document and its values? If you can’t answer those questions you don’t get my vote. So our vote as ordinary citizens is the biggest asset base that we’ve got. If we use it properly, just like you use your shares in a company to go the company meeting and say I will not have this CEO continuing because he or she has messed up. We in South Africa have in a sense devalued our citizenship which many people died for us to be able to vote – and lets honour that.

DA: Thank you very much.

MR: Thank you. Bye.

DA: Bye-bye.


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