100 World Class South Africans: Mamphela Ramphele

2013-07-11 12:00

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Voice of reason, force of nature 

‘Do you remember the dream we embraced to build ours into a great society – a prosperous constitutional democracy united in its diversity?’

This is how Dr Mamphela Ramphele, standing on Constitution Hill, announced her intention to enter formal politics in February this year.

There is something regal about Ramphele; the reverence she attracts, her formidable intellect and her countless accomplishments.

As a veteran of the Struggle, and former partner of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko, she has the credentials to lead this country.

A medical doctor; one-time vicechancellor of UCT; first South African to head the World Bank; former chairperson of Goldfields, one of the largest mining company boards in the land; founder of Letsema Circle, a specialist advisory company; director of Remgro, Medi-Clinic and formerly director of Anglo American.

But it’s her staggering personal losses that coexisted with her astonishing professional achievements that make Ramphele such a poignant icon.

She and Biko lost their first child in infancy; their second was born after Biko’s brutal murder in 1977, and Ramphele spent seven years under house arrest.

‘I have had to overcome the high barriers to opportunity confronting many black people, especially black rural women,’ she told her audience on Constitution Hill – which is why she’s calling her political party Agang (Sesotho for ‘Let us build’).

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