Mamphela Ramphele

Agang leader, Dr Mamphela Ramphele

Agang leader, Dr Mamphela  Ramphele, a guest speaker at the Motlekar BBQ Awards, invited the audience “on a journey to imagine the country of our dreams.”

Saying that the BBQ Awards winners “show us how diversity translates into excellence”, Ramphele urged the audience “to remember that we are a country destined for greatness”. Sharing her concern that “we have lost the capacity to imagine what that greatness can look like”, Ramphele asked: “How on earth did we come to the conclusion that 3 out of 10 can constitute anything but failure?” As an alternative, Ramphele suggested, “Imagine a country where every child goes to a school with very good buildings, a wonderful library, a wonderful laboratory, a computer centre and a sports field where our children can run and play soccer . Imagine if every child were made to feel special, knowing that they can be the best. Imagine a country where the economy is growing at 5-8% not for one year but for 10, 15 years. Imagine giving Tokyo, Brasilia and Beijing a run for their money because we have everything in this country that makes us competitive: natural resources, mineral resources, human resources in unequalled  diversity.”

South Africa's journey to create a more inclusive society, continued Ramphele, necessitated Black Economic Empowerment. What, she asked, was  holding the country  back from “actually creating new exciting entities that can grow our economy and showcase the creativity of South Africans?” South Africans, she urged,  must imagine a country “where small and medium enterprises are given all the support that they need to generate the jobs and the innovation required to compete in this global environment,” a society “where no young person walks the street aimlessly” but where every young person can find on-the-job training opportunities to unleash their innate talent.

“Imagine a healthcare system where every mother, every child and every old woman and man is treated with respect. Imagine that no-one needs to worry that when new life is born, we end up losing both mother and the child. Is it possible to have such a country that is precisely the country of our dreams, that is precisely the country that inspired the Mandelas, the Tambos, the Sisulus, the Bikos, to sacrifice their youth to inspire us, to lead us to build this wonderful country of our dreams?”

The only obstacle to achieving this vision, Ramphele said, was  mental. South Africans had to  “shift their mind sets” and declare: “We are a great people. We will celebrate unity and diversity, we will support every child and make sure that they become the best people that they can become. We will be active citizens, the people that ignite change and drive (South Africa).  We will be the people who become the light in the communities where we are, the people who make us dream bigger, aim higher, ask the tough, difficult questions. We will be the leaders we are waiting for.”

Ramphele appealed to the audience, saying, “Each one of us is capable of excellence, but it starts with you being willing to talk to the person inside you, to say: It is possible. It is in my hands to be that person. And by being that, you are able to create an environment where others feel that they are  empowered to become the best persons that they can become.”

Ramphele asked the audience to leave with “with a picture of a South Africa where every day we are celebrating excellence – in our personal lives, in our professional lives, in our political lives. There is no need to equate politics with corruption or mediocrity. We have to expect much more from ourselves, because that will enable us to expect much more from our leaders.”

The Motlekar Holdings BBQ Awards, Ramphele said, had afforded “a glimpse of this greatness”. Admonishing the audience not to “let this glimpse disappear and fall back into the mediocrity that we often times allow ourselves to tolerate,” she  exhorted the assembled guests “to imagine what you can do to make sure this country of ours becomes the country of our dreams, the country that will restore the promise of the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the legacy of Robert Sobukwe, the legacy of Steve Biko.”

Thus will South Africa become “that great African society that we are destined to be”.

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Issue 80


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