Guest Column

Prof Sampie's work is a gift to the youth of SA

2018-02-21 08:12
Prof. Sampie Terreblanche

Prof. Sampie Terreblanche (Michelle van der Spuy)

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Hlengiwe Mkhize

The post-school education and training sector and the South African nation at large bemoans the passing-on of Professor Solomon Johannes "Sampie" Terreblanche. 

Professor Sampie Terreblanche was born on 17 April 1933 and passed on on February 17, 2018. He was a world renowned South African economist and an author of economic books. We all remember his remarkable life and contribution in three broad areas; viz. politics, academia and social justice.  

Academic profile

Terreblanche was professor emeritus of Economics at Stellenbosch University, where he built a reputation as a lecturer on a wide range of topics in economics amongst others; history of economic thought, economic history, the economy of South Africa, and economic systems. 

He cut his political teeth as a student at Stellenbosch University where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in economics. He also obtained a Master Degree and a Doctorate in Philosophy, in the same university. 

After spending three months at Harvard University, when he came back to Stellenbosch University he was appointed to the Chair of Economics teaching economic history. He lectured at the University of Orange Free State for eight years then he returned to Stellenbosch University.

Terreblanche has published an astounding total of eleven books and more than thirty articles in journals and chapters in books. He was a prolific writer of newspaper articles, predominantly on political and economic issues concerning South Africa’s long transitional period from 1980 onwards. 

Sampie’s famous book History of Inequality in South Africa (1652 – 2002) will influence many generations to come. His work on the same book remains an epitome of his unpretentiousness and the verve he has always shown in tackling structural socio-economic challenges.  

He was awarded an honorary doctorate (DCom, honoris causa) from the University of Pretoria for his lifelong contribution to the economic discipline in South Africa and played a major role in improving our understanding of the political economy and economic history of our country.

Political and social justice profile

At the height of the apartheid government's orchestrated gross human rights violations, he established the "Discussion Group 85" at Stellenbosch University. At the time, he became the voice of the masses by questioning the morality of the apartheid ideology.

When he appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 1997, Sampie made a brave statement by advocating that government should charge Wealth Tax as a weapon of initiating redress and to find ways of dismantling the gap between the haves and the have nots.

Professor Terreblanche’s contribution to the work of the TRC was unique and extraordinary in the sense that he sought government’s intervention in addressing the economic injustices against oppressed blacks. He became the voice of the oppressed during the country’s transitional phase from apartheid to democracy. 

The underlying argument to his submission was the disquieting gap which exist between the rich and poor in our country. The widening gap was exacerbated by the fact that wealth and poverty are very largely defined in racial terms. He argued that the perpetuation of the gap was a very real threat to peace and stability. 

In 2008 he co-wrote an article calling for the establishment of a Justice and Reconciliation Commission to educate whites who were the beneficiaries of this exploitive system.   

We salute his commitment to the struggles of the oppressed by engaging with the powerful, learned and wealthy Afrikaners on the question of social construction of the poor, the question of the beneficiaries' responsibility in nation building; the race relations discourse in South Africa will be different. He followed in the footsteps of revolutionary leaders like Dr Beyers Naude who pursued the revolutionary agenda within the Afrikaner community and the society at large.

Sampie has passed on in the year when the country is commemorating Tata Mandela’s life and there is a resolve to revisit the values he lived by and commitments he made in establishing a non-racist, non-sexist equal society. 

There is a generally renewed sense of hope about possibilities of unity in this country since President Cyril Ramaphosa used the State of the Nation Address delivered on February 15 to revive the importance of unity. Sampie's work is a gift to the youth of South Africa and the world at large, which will guide them as they pursue an inclusive agenda thereby creating a non-racist, non-sexist, equal society.
- Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize is minister of higher education and training.

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Read more on:    sampie terreblanche  |  youth  |  apartheid


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