Conversations with my Sons and Daughters - Maphela Ramphela


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Conversations with my Sons and Daughters was born as a consequence of the many mentoring requests that Dr Mamphela Ramphele receives. The book begins with an angry young man crying “Mabu a u tswitse” (“The soil has been stolen”). This idiomatic call to arms in defence of the land speaks for itself. It is thus apt that, in the one-way conversations contained in her book, Dr Ramphele strongly responds to the growing despair among young South Africans. She also points out the cracks that are appearing in South Africa’s governance since the Mandela presidency.

She shows incisively how successive post-apartheid ANC governments have betrayed the nation for a culture of impunity among those close to the seat of power, where corruption goes unremarked and accountability has been swept aside.

The book is challenging but also encouraging – it urges young South Africans to set aside their fears; to take control of their rights and responsibilities as citizens in upholding the values of the constitution; and to confront the growing inequality that is undermining good governance, social justice and stability.

In this session of We Read For You, Prof Basil Leonard unpacks the essence of this book.

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Conversations with my Sons and Daughters - Maphela Ramphela

  1. 1. We Read For You: 02 August 2013 Your partner in world-class business learning Conversations with My Sons and Daughters By Mamphela Ramphele Presented by Prof Basil C Leonard
  2. 2. • Mabu a u tswitswe! These are words uttered in 2011 by a young professional man who felt no need to explain the context of these weighty words to Mamphela Ramphele. He assumed that she would understand his distress and its source. • This is a Sepedi idiom which literally means ‘the soil has been stolen’. It is used as a call to action to defend the land following the assassination of a king by a conquering power. All able-bodied men would be expected to prepare to avenge the outrage and reclaim the land from the usurpers.
  3. 3. • …Ramphele, it seems, has taken it on herself to heed that call. Conversations with My Sons and Daughters is a declaration of war on the failings of South African governance, and the South African government, since the Mandela presidency. To hear Ramphele tell it, those failings are many (Lewis Mash).
  4. 4. Question: Why would this idiom be used by a young SA in 2011? • Ramphele states that not even memories of the inspirational leadership of the iconic Nelson Mandela can hide the growing sense of disappointment that the dream of freedom is yet to be reflected in the everyday lives of the majority of the population. • After more than a decade and a half of transition to democracy cracks are showing in the system of governance that threaten the idealism on which the society reinvented itself.
  5. 5. Question: What is governance? • Governance is understood as the exercise of authority with three basic dimensions: political, economic and institutional. • The political dimension is measured through indicators for democratic accountability, political stability and absence of major conflict and violence in society. • The economic dimension reflects government effectiveness and the quality of the regulatory framework and its execution. • The institutional dimension refers to matters pertaining to the rule of law, the control of corruption and the strengths of public institutions that underpin good order.
  6. 6. Ramphele Over the last decade or so South Africa has been showing signs of decline in its performance as a well- governed country. State capture in the political, economic and institutional dimensions is becoming a reality of our society. The government’s own National Planning Commission’s Diagnostic Report released in June 2011, lists a number of issues that signal the trend towards the kind of decline that brought down the Hapsburg Empire in Europe and the post-colonial state in Latin America and Africa.
  7. 7. Indicators of decline we are to watch for: • Rising corruption; • Weakening of state and civil society institutions; • Poor economic management; • Skills and capital flight; • Politics dominated by short-termism, ethnicity or factionalism • Lack of maintenance of infrastructure & standards of service
  8. 8. According to Ramphele, the most disquieting overall finding by the National Planning Commission is that poverty and inequality persist. This means that the majority of South Africans remain poor and marginalised. Social justice remains elusive eighteen years after the attainment of freedom.
  9. 9. The question WHY comes to the fore again – 4 reasons… • The quality of education for poor South Africans leaves much to be desired. A key reason for this is dysfunction in 80 per cent of schools with teachers often not in class, not well prepared to teach, and not competent to use the relevant teaching aids.
  10. 10. The question WHY comes to the fore again – 4 reasons… • Too few South Africans have employment, especially amongst the youth where for 15 to 24 years old the unemployment rate was 51.3 per cent in 2010 and 29 per cent for the 25 to 34-year-olds. The result is that more than three million young people between the ages of 15 and 35 years are not in education, not in employment and not in training.
  11. 11. The question WHY comes to the fore again – 4 reasons… • Poorly located and inadequate infrastructure perpetuates apartheid’s racially engineered geographic divisions and limits social inclusion and the rate of economic growth.
  12. 12. The question WHY comes to the fore again – 4 reasons… • High levels of crime and insecurity, especially amongst poor people who remain excluded from the benefits of basic public services.
  13. 13. Are we really facing a major national crisis? Why did he direct his anguish to me? In some ways, the idiom of the young man - ‘the soil has been stolen’ best captures the understanding that in a constitutional democracy the citizens are the sovereigns. It is their sovereignty that is at stake and they need to be called to action to defend their democracy.
  14. 14. Let us describe this young man in greater detail because he represents many others who keep the same question hidden in their anxious minds. Ramphele calls him Matome. • Matome has worked hard to qualify as a financial analyst with one of the major companies in the country. He is a committed patriot who has been watching the slide of our society into poor governance, growing social ills such as crime and insecurity, and unemployment especially among young people, including those with higher education qualifications. The bright future he saw so clearly ten years ago is becoming dimmer and dimmer.
  15. 15. Let us describe this young man in greater detail because he represents many others who keep the same question hidden in their anxious minds. Ramphele calls him Matome. • Matome is finding little comfort from his peers who advise him to keep his head down, focus on his career, and not jeopardise his great prospects of reaching the very top. • This young man Matome has reason to be depressed and to speak of the assassination of the citizen as the sovereign of our constitutional democracy.
  16. 16. This book of conversations is a response to this young man and many other young women and men who are struggling to understand how their country has come to this from those heady post-1994 Madiba Magic days. They see the dream of a prosperous society united in its diversity in a dynamic democratic order vanishing with the revelation of each new scandal that makes previous ones look minor.
  17. 17. Contents Introduction Chapter 1 Shifting the ground of reason Chapter 2 Negotiating culture, traditions and customs in a democracy Chapter 3 What system of values are we to live by? Chapter 4 How do the agreed values cascade into our governance practices? Chapter 5 Failure to transform the socio-economic landscape Chapter 6 Betrayal of future generations Chapter 7 Are we subjects or citizens? Chapter 8 Experiments in addressing social pain Chapter 9 Leadership for completing the transition
  18. 18. If there is a common theme that binds these essays, it is the failure of the ANC government to live up to its pre- electoral promise. And on this theme, Ramphele is as convincing and compelling as readers might hope. After all, she is uniquely placed to speak truth to South Africa’s powers-that-be (Lewis Mash).
  19. 19. A way in which she continues the conversations is by revisiting some key issues: • The values of our national constitution. • Why are there such large gaps between values and practice? • How does a society rebirth itself? • What would a transformational journey – generational, political, socio-economic – look like?
  20. 20. • Conversations touches on every issue under the sun, from corruption to the electoral system; from the difficulties of mother tongue education to Malema; from youth unemployment to the problematic ‘heroic’ nature of South Africa’s politics. • At times it’s hard to remember what you’re reading about now or what was covered in the previous chapter, let alone to connect it to what comes next (Lewis Mash)
  21. 21. Six Selected Readings… 1. Page 14 2. Page 16 3. Page 31 4. Page 60 5. Page 82 6. Page 120 Questions Comments Suggestions Reflections