Mamphela Ramphele, a keynote speaker at BCRW’s 40th Anniversary conference, has made news in South Africa, possibly to change the face of South African politics. Ramphele has stepped down from her position as Chairwoman of Gold Fields to announce the formation of a new political party, Agang (‘Let Us Build’), in time for the 2014 elections.
In the speech that launched her political aspirations, Ramphele said:
I have seen both the high points and low points of our imagined future. I have had to overcome the high barriers to opportunity confronting many black people, especially black rural women, to become a student activist, a medical doctor, a community development activist, a researcher, a university executive, a global public servant at the World Bank and now an active citizen in both the public and private sectors. Key to my success is the support and encouragement I received from my family, my teachers, my friends and fellow citizens. My journey is the journey of a searcher who never gives up dreaming of a better tomorrow.
This puts to rest the speculation that Ramphele would create a new political party. Ramphele is often accused of being too much of “an academic” but she has never forgotten that the commitment to pedagogy is a form of activism and commitment to social justice and to serve in a just society. It was therefore no surprise to see her reference to education in her condemnation of corruption. Neither is it a surprise to see her very important unpacking of the idea of leadership through the example of representation and not simply creating a class of followers necessary to a narrow, traditionalist notion of leadership.
Yvette Christiansë is a South African-born poet, novelist, and scholar. She is a Professor of English and Africana Studies at Barnard College, where she is a BCRW Transnational Faculty Fellow. Her research interests include the nexus between theories of race and gender, class and postcoloniality. She was born in South Africa under apartheid and immigrated with her parents to Australia at age 18.