Mamphele Ramphele: The Busy Elegant Woman of Africa

2013-02-09 07:11

Dr Mamphele Ramphele for a period spanning a lifetime has been an advocate and practical agent of community building, community healing and empowerment. In the 1970s with Steve Biko and a number of others she was the catalyst of grassroots politics and practical community empowerment. That means while the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) were grappling with national political struggle seeking to weaken and topple the apartheid government Dr Mamphele Ramphele and a number of others were down at the communities waging a different struggle - that difficult struggle of seeking practical solutions for the day to day practical problems with the village and township people - empowering them by teaching them skills in entrepreneurship, artisanship and building of economic community hubs. The supreme overarching education they imparted in those periods were however black consciousness – the idea people should maintain their dignity as humans in the midst of a battering from the apartheid government that sought to declare that the majority of people of this country were inferior to the few who settled here from Europe.

It was a powerful approach but very difficult and sometimes thankless struggle – but after all a powerful philosophy, a powerful real empowerment to the majority of people that saw people determining their destiny – women weaving mats, making bracelets and other ornaments for livelihood forming small business points . While men became shoemakers, watchmakers, cutting cow skins making shoes and belts.The guiding principle of their interventions across communities was to start from what people know and understand and then “rubs in” scientific knowledge.

The work they did was  fundamental effective community interventions during those times when African traditional village culture was losing strength, with its empowering folklore stories that built people as better citizens - ubuntu way of life!

And so today Mamphele Ramphele, this elegant woman of Africa, is busy! She is on a renaissance mode –  she is on a revival and rebirth mode continuing with this great legacy of community empowerment and community development through the social, economic and practical liberating movement she founded - the Citizens Movement.  The focus of Citizens Movement is on connecting with communities. The vision of Citizen Movement is free from fluff: is not full of jargon nor age old stagnating revolutionary terminology.

The vision reads: "Mobilising ordinary South Africans to  make the journey from being passive ‘subjects’ to igniting them to become active citizens who help to co-create the country of our dreams".

Despite the gains made politically by African people through the African National Congress the practical reality that is undeniable is that economically the majority of African people are suffering even worse than they have suffered before the dawn of democracy and the conditions are not getting better but worsening with the culture of feeding schemes, handouts, RDP housing, electrification of informal settlements shacks and social grants being entrenched and flourishing instead of genuine healing and real empowerment of communities for a better life and respectful human dignity.

Dr Mamphele Ramphele was born and raised in the deep rural areas of Limpopo in 1947 and attended mission schools out there. Her attendance of mission schools such as G. H. Frantz Secondary School and Bethesda has instilled in her with a practical missionary zeal outlook seeking to help and build people – empowering them and developing them for a life time.


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