Mamphele Ramphele’s active citizenry

2012-11-13 11:11

Political activist, humanitarian and former managing director of the World Bank Dr Mamphela Ramphele sets the bar high for leaders.

Your greatest professional achievement?

The transformation of the University of Cape Town into a world-class African university.

At a time when the country had high hopes for the future, there was a willingness to undertake the task of transformation from an old, white, male institution to a truly African university.

And your greatest challenge?
Winning the trust of both sides of the transformation divide – students and academics.

There was scepticism from established academics. The students had also become cynical of the prospects of radical transformation.

They saw me as a threat to their comfort zone of being the oppressed.

I was tough and told them they must perform. I removed the barriers to excellence and allowed them to change their self-image.

What values do you think young South Africans need to adopt in order to get ahead?

They are in a fortunate position because the Constitution spells out the right to human dignity and respect for yourself and others – the concept of ubuntu.

You can’t respect others if you don’t respect yourself. Community starts with me.

If you could’ve done one thing differently in your life, what would it be?
Mainly choices I made in my personal life, like marrying someone while being in love with someone else. My professional choices were mostly forced on me – I would’ve wanted to become a chemist.

I love physical science, but there were no career prospects for a black woman back then.

What sort of leader are you?

I have evolved as a leader. I was very shy as a young woman, until I realised my strength and talent. I set very high standards. I’m a tough taskmaster, but very supportive.

What are your core values?

At the centre lies human dignity. What drives me to get up at 6am at the age of 64 is the quest to make sure this country lives up to its commitment to promote dignity.

What inspires you?
The dream of a great country. I don’t understand why people don’t spend every waking moment working to make this country great.

What is the biggest professional compliment you’ve ever received?

When I get a hug from a young person, especially students of UCT. When they say ‘we thought you were unfair and tough, but we thank you for forcing us to rise to the challenge of excellence’.

Your life motto?

To do the best I can every day in everything I can – from reading the best book to enjoying lovely destinations on holiday with my children.

For more info on Ramphele’s Citizens Movement, visit

Four things i learnt the hard way

1. Trust your own judgement. Don’t be led by others. Stick with your inner voice – it’s the most authentic one.
2. Do things that make sense and that rhymes with the rhythm of your life.
3. Stand your ground, even in a hostile environment.
4. Returning anger and hate with anger and hate never works. Disarm your opponent by showing them the respect they don’t think you deserve.

» Get your iMag with City Press on Sunday

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Amazing solar inventions!

Solar power is lighting up the world, and not just on rooftops anymore.



Plastic on your plate
Prince George the green prince?
Lean, green, drifiting machine
One man's $1 million vision for an eco Africa

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

There is a tendency to get too caught up in group dynamics and high expectations and ideals, that your own personal needs more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.