We need to heal wounds to move forward: Ramphele
South Africa is a wounded society and needs to recognise this in order to become a great nation and tackle issues such as the dysfunctional education system, said former managing director of the World Bank Dr Mamphela Ramphele.
Ramphele, who is also the former vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, was speaking at an event in Houghton on Wednesday, run by her newly-founded organisation, Citizens Movement for Social Change.
The NGO aims to mobilise South Africans to take part in the country as active citizens who hold government to account.
“At a most fundamental level a great many South Africans are still too wounded to take up the mantle of active citizenship,” according to Ramphele.
She believes that most South Africans do not hold government to account or participate in democracy due to deep seated wounds from apartheid and inherited feelings of inferiority.
A brochure from the movement Citizens Movement for Social Change reads, “South Africa has not succeeded in overcoming the deep seated legacy of subjugation and woundedness that affects many of its people. The result is that the country’s democratisation remains incomplete and its development far below its true potential.
"Because so much of South Africa lacks voice and self-confidence in their capacity for civic engagement, public responses to failures in the performance of the public sector all too often take the form of violent protest.”
Ramphele said that the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) dealt with “headline cases” but failed to help the majority of South Africans deal with the wounds left over from the country’s history.
“You cannot heal wounds without acknowledging them.”
Ramphele argues that “We cannot have politics without active citizens. Since 1994, we have had political parties with very little of the voice of citizens. By citizens healing from their woundedness, they will find their voice and this will lead to action and then to holding power accountable and being responsible citizens.
In her speech she told conference participants the South African education system was destroying lives of young people. Ramphele said one of the problems with education in South Africa is the deep sense of inferiority many black South Africans possess. Black people’s inferiority passes over into the education system in which “black people who still feel inferior say to their children you don’t need to do maths, but instead do maths literacy”.
Ramphele’s organisation is planning to hold events in which people meet in groups of ten and speak about and heal from woundedness, according to the organisation’s CEO Heather Sonn. “We want to have the tough conversations.” Wounds could be caused by many things she argued including fear and racial and class divisions.
Political author at the event Moeletsi Mbeki, agreed that South Africa was a wounded society. But he said that levels of woundedness differed according to race groups. Mbeki argued that white English people were the least wounded due to the country’s colonial history. “This meant they have the highest forms of confidence, assets and skills and should be used by the government in nation building.
"We need to use white people but instead we disincentivise them with high taxes, BEE and Affimative Action. That is why there is half a trillion worth of capital sitting in banks as people don’t want to invest.”