Blog Post



It is a gross understatement to say that we live in troubled times.  Humanity is facing multiple planetary emergencies on many fronts: climate; pandemics; an ineffectual international governance architecture that was designed for a different era; and conflicts over resources that are seen as increasingly scarce.  It is fair to say that humanity is facing an existential crisis.

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Gutteres, had this to say on 2/12/2020 about our times:

“Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back – and it is already doing so with growing force and fury. Biodiversity is collapsing. One million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes … Human activities are at the root of our descent toward chaos. But that means human action can help to solve it.”

It is a truisim that humanity has the capacity to act to stop the descent into chaos.  We live in a world with unprecedented opportunities.  We have progressed the development of our scientific, technological and other skills to the extent that our ancestors never could have imagined.  We have shrunk time and space through ever more sophisticalted technologies for travel and connectivity.  We have even perfected the capacity to create virtual reality, not only for entertainment, but also for conducting business meetings, transactions and other engagements; complex manouvers in surgical and other medical interventions; and exploring for life beyond our planet. Yes, we have the capacity to act to address the crises the UN SG Gutteres referred to in 2020.  That capacity needs to be deployed urgently. 

Today I would like to share some snippents from my 54 year old leadership journey in a troubled world.  Each era has its fair share of trouble, that looks ominous and insurmountable.  Yet, without confronting such ‘insurmountable’ challenges, opportunities that often lie ahead would become unreachable.

The journey of life is made easier and more enjoyable depending on how much work we invest in the continual process of self-knowledge and liberation from self-doubt, and the fear of failure.  Failure is a friend who reminds us of how much more we need to still learn, and that learning is a lifelong undertaking.  Life systems are sustained by learning and relearning from both obstacles and abundance of alternative pathways.  Turning failure into a friend enables us to be open to others, including our critics who help us to grow in knowledge of self and of our ecosystems.    

Human beings are wired to be interconnected and interdependent within a web of life.  We are one of the few mammals that have a long period of dependence on others at the beginning of life and at the end of it.  We are a relational species.  We are at our best when we are surrounded by those we love, trust, and are able to share with at multiple levels.  The value of our relationships cannot be measured nor reduced to material value.  Relationships are the essence of being human.  

My talk will focus on three main themes:

-    Leadership starts with You – who are you, and what matters to you?

-    South Africa – the Gap between Opportunities and Outcomes 

-    What Leadership Values are Required for South Africa to Live her Ideals?

Leadership Starts with You

I belong to the generation of radical student leadership of the late 1960s that redefined who we are as a people, and helped us shape the future of contemporary South Africa.  The late 1960s was characterised by young people across the USA, Europe, and some parts of Asia and Africa, daring to ask very uncomfortable questions of themselves, their parents, and leaders of the world at that time.  

In the USA, young people rose up against the Vietnam War and racism that excluded African Americans from enjoying their civil rights.  The  Civil Rights Movement that sprang up at the time had many sub-sets including:  Martin Luther King and his non-violent Civil Rights Movement; The Black Panther Group, comprising young people with radical anti-establishment approaches; Malcolm X of the Nation of Islam, who preached radical socio-economic and political transformation of the USA.  

In Africa Frantz Fanon, an Algerian psychiatrist, used the pen to inspire us with his analysis of how the mind of oppressed people works, and what is needed to liberate ourselves from mental slavery.  African intellectuals, largely based in West Africa and the Carribean Islands, spawned the Negritude Movement to explore what it meant to be a ‘Negro’ in a white supremacisit world.  Our generation was the beneficiery of all these global movements.  

What we learned then, and continue to learn as we are growing older, is that to be fully the person you would like to become, you have to free the inner person in you, and affirm unambiguosly that you are comfortable in your own skin.   This truism is particularly important to those who have grown up in a colonial apartheid society, in which human dignity and the value of human life, were colour-coded.  As a black African woman, I occupied the lowest rung in that hierachical society.  The top rank was assigned to white males, followed by white females.  To add insult to injury, we as black people had not only accepted that hierarchy, but had also accepted, and self-identified as non-European/non-white, in an African country! Just imagine that! 

Our awakening occurred when we realised that the only way a minority could hold down a majority population in the land of their own birth, was by controlling what they thought of themselves, their beliefs and cultures.  As John Hendrik Clarke, an African American Historian, said:

“To control a people you must first control what they think of themselves and how they regard their history and culture. And when your conqueror makes you ashamed of your culture and your history, he needs no prison walls and no chains to hold you.”(Google Quotes) 

My generation woke up in the late 1960s to the power within ourselves to take back control of ourselves from our oppressors, and to learn anew how to be human. We claimed back the agency to learn about our authentic history and culture.  Many of us shed the European names, imposed on Africans by missionaries as ‘Christian names,’ compulsory at baptism as a child or adult convert to Christianity. We rose up to name ourselves as Black and Proud!   We said that loud enough for ourselves to hear it, but also to give notice to our oppressors.  

Every analysis of our situation from then on, confirmed that psychological liberation from inferiority complexes imposed on us by our oppressors, is the essential step towards complete liberation from the tyrany of structural racist and sexist exploitation.  This truism applies to all forms of oppression, including sexism and gender inequities.

The beauty of awakening to one’s power to self-liberate is that it places one’s freedom to be whom one desires to become, entirely in one’s own hands.  We did not need anyone nor material resources to liberate ourselves.  It was a gift of mother nature to all her children!  Humanity is created to be free.   Once liberated, we unleashed the power to dream, and to live our dreams.   

We also challenged men in our movement to confront their own sexist and patriarchal attitudes and practices.  It was not easy, but had to be done!  We made them understand that freedom is indivisible.  One cannot be anti-racist, and yet be sexist. One cannot pronounce oneself a freedom fighter, when holding others hostage to gender inequity!  Making the personal political, is tough but essential to liberate both men and women from patriarchy.  Liberation from patriarchy is unfinished business, not only in South Africa, but globally!   

The Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) grew from strength to strength at universities; schools; work places; cultural spaces; civic bodies; and faith based organisations, to re-awaken ordinary people to their innate power to demand being treated with dignity.  Attempts by the colonial apartheid system to crush the BCM could not succeed for many years.  The BCM leadership structure was deliberately layered to ensure that, like a salamander, if you cut off its tail, and it grows a new one. 

The blanket banning of the BCM organisations and partner institutions, and the killings and imprisonment of its leaders in 1977, eventualy crippled our progress.  This was followed by a lull, before the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1983.  Many of the former BCM activists and leaders such as Rev Alan Boesak, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Cyril Ramaphosa, led this reawakening and continued to conscientise and mobilise people to fight for their rights.

The pressure on the apartheid government became irresistable due to the combination of internal and external liberation movements acts of defiance, increasingly supported by international solidarity economic and cultural sanctions.  The negotiated settlement of 1994 brought great relief and excitement to our beloved country, as it transitioned to become a constitutitonal democracy under the iconic President Mandela.  Many saw the transition as a time to reconstruct our country into a social justice democracy anchored on the values of Ubuntu - the “I am because you are” in an interconnected interdependent web of life.

I decided much earlier on in life that my role in post-apartheid SA would be that of an enabler and bridge builder, to ensure that the ideals that so many lived, fought, and died for, would become the lived reality of all citizens.  I chose University of Cape Town (UCT), as my base for my contributions to the transformation of our society.  UCT was an important case study of how one could transform a good institution that was predominantly white, male and elitist, into an inclusive safe space for all students and staff, regardless of background, to develop their full potential and excel.  Disentangling creative, excellent scholarship from the pervasive  retrogressive white male institutional culture was a major challenge.  How does one uproot the weeds without killing the desired crops? 

My UCT days as a member of the Executive, first as Deputy Vice Chancellor, then as Vice Chancellor,  were the best of times in my entire career as a professional in many ways.  I succeeded Dr. Stuart Saunders, who was the most supportive predecessor one could wish for. He transcended his white male cultural upbringing to promote excellence and equity. He came to understand that it was impossible to sustain white male privilege in an African country without paying both opportunity and direct costs.  Imagine how many brilliant young people who could have become great scholars, artists, and leaders in many fields, were excluded from UCT and other institutions over the long period of white male dominance.  Imagine where South Africa could have been had this exclusionary legacy not reigned for more than 300 years?

My willingness to publicly aknowledge my outsider role contributed to my successful leadership at UCT.  I did not come from traditional academia.  I was an activist and transgressive whose mission was to transform spacess I was let into, or forced open against the odds.  Being the first black woman to lead UCT placed an inordinant responsibility on me to set the standard of transformative leadership, and to lead by example.  I deliberately assembled a strong team of leaders, who knew much more than I did about the institution, and were leaders in their own fields.  I also decided to promote more participatory processes to identify levers for change, decision-making, monitoring and evaluation, and course correction where necessary.

Re-visioning the institution as a Worldclass African University, and establishing a policy framework for transformation of the institutional culture to promote Equity and Excellence at all levels, was the first order of business.  Every aspect of the institution was then examined to ensure that we closed the gap between what was in place, and what should be in place in line with our Vision.  The energy mobilised in the entire institution was electrifying.  Over a period of nine years UCT became a model of institutional transformation that took the best from the painful past and built a platform of creativity and development that attacted significant support from donors and partners across the spectrum.  The South African higher education system today reflects much of what we modelled at UCT during that period.

South Africa – The Gap between Opportunities and Outcomes

You may well ask – what became of the spirit of self-liberation I described at the beginning of my talk in the post-1994 period?  Why is my country in such a sorry state today?  How did we allow state capture by political elites and the white male dominated private sector, to happen on our watch over the last 28 years?  The short answer is that we took our collective eye off the ball and allowed elites to lie to us.  Our failure to challenge the lie that the ANC liberated us, gave them persmission to reward themselves with state resources that are a common entitlement of all citizens.  

The idea that South Africa was liberated by the ANC, mirrors what happened eslsewhere in Africa.  Former liberation movements have successfully positioned themselves in the post-colonial era as sole liberators, entitled to “rule” regardless of their performance.  They have become oppressors of their fellow citizens, abusing state resources for personal and party purposes.  In some African countries such leaders are willing to abuse and even kill those opposing them.  South Africans are protected from open abusive practices such as political imprisonment and killings, by the legacy of activism that is still alive and well today,  and is often mobilised to challenge violation of our revered Constitution. 

The structure of our socio-economic system reflects the failure of successive governments to fundamentally transform a system designed over more than 300 yers to benefit less than 10% of the population, into a just society promoting wellbeing and prosperity for all.  The neo-liberal economic system that was adopted by the ANC on the advice of the Bretton Woods institutions and the myriad of private consultants who descended on our country, is ill-suited for us.  It has built-in mechanisms to promote inequity embedded in a winner takes all ethos of neo-liberalism, that has been taken as gospel truth by our leaders, despite the harm they have caused many poor countries that fell into the trap.  

The COVID pandemic has exposed the double standards used by the white male dominated global financial institutions, that have promoted financialisation of the global economy.  Whilst poor countries are hamstrung by the dominant use of foreign currencies for international trade, and the inequitous intellectual property regime policed by the WTO, wealthy countries merrily printed money to meet their urgent national needs, and suspended WTO free trade rules to privilege their own citizens’ access to essential drugs and vaccines.  COVID has also led small wealthy countries and jurisdictions such as New Zealand, Iceland, Finland, Scotland and Wales, to opt for refocussing their economies on promoting wellbeing for all as a measure of prosperity, rather than the traditional GDP.  

South Africa cannot prosper without dismantling the ill-suited socio-economic system inherited from our past.  Our sociology-economic system was designed to generate inequality.  The legacy of privileging owners of property - land, mineral and intellectual – dominated by whilte males, and now including a small black predominately male black elites, has to be fundamentally transformed.   Our country’s life giving resources remain trapped in the hands of a few at the expense of the majority.  State capture, started in 1996 with the arms deal and now embedded in almost all national institutions has to be dismantled. The dismantling of state capture is essential to freeing our commonwealth to build a future fit for generations yet to be born. 

The most devastating failure of the ANC in government for the last 28 years, is the failure to transform education into a platform for unleashing the potential of every child to grow into the best version each is created to become.  Despite our education expenditure as proportion of government expenditure being at nearly 23%, far higher than UNESCO’s benchmark of 15%, our education outcomes are far worse than poorer countries spending far less than us.  The primary problem is the quality of teaching and learning.  It is wellknown that the quality of education cannot exceed that of the teachers, who are the facilitators of the learning process.  The quality of our teachers reflects the aftermath of apartheid education socially engineered to produce inferior outcomes.  Poor quality outcome are also the costs of state capture that has undermined consequence management of the performance of teachers, and other public servants. Loyalty to the ANC trumps dedicated professional service.

The combination of incompetent, corrupt public leadership, wrong curriculum choices, poor unsafe school facilities, and humiliating poverty, has led to an education system that in many ways graduates worse products than apartheid education did.  Poor quality education perpetuates mental slavery, violence against the self, and those close to one.  Persistent racism, sexism and toxic masculinity, drive the high levels of gender based, and public violence in our society.  The high levels of unemployment amongst young people from the poorest levels of society, reflects the poor quality of education outcomes. High drop-out rates of more than 50% of each cohort of just over a million children each year, fuel the sense of worthlessness.  This generates anger and violence amongst young people caught up in this spiral.

My generation has the responsibillity to ensure that we support our children’s generation to once more liberate themselves from the tyranny of unaccountable governance.  They need to mobilise themselves as the largest cohort of educated professionals that ever was, to ensure that they reclaim control of their country from state capturers. This generation’s mission must be to complete the transformation process that so many of their mothers, fathers, uncles, and aunts died fighting for.  Our children’s generation must become the good ancestors to those yet to be born.  

What Leadership Values are Required for South Africa Today?

My country is in desperate need of leaders of courage, integrity, creativity, and competence to complete the unfinished journey for our country to become a constitutional democracy. Our constitutional democracy was designed for social justice and wellbeing for all on a healthy planet.  The good news is that we have a huge youth buldge with a significant proportion of the 15-55 yrs at 59% of the total population of 60million.  This age profile has the energy, creativity, and flexibility to mobilise themselves into the change agents needed to execute on the commitments we made to ourselves in 1996, when we adopted our Constitution to:

•    Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;

•    Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;

•    Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and

•    Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.

Despite the failure of successive governments to invest in the realisation of the above commitments, I am encouraged to see how young people are taking the initiative to heal themselves, and their peers, to become the leaders they have waited in vain for.  There is a growing number of professionals, entrepreneurs, civil society activists, who are demanding that the values that govern their relational lives, should also be reflected in their careers, and the political choices they make.  These young leaders are ready to embark on leadership journeys inspired by fundamental human rights and values encapsulated in the African philosophy of Ubuntu.  They are ready to become enablers of the healing process to liberate themselves, their peers, and younger generations from mental slavery.  Values alignment is paramount to these young people and the fellow travellers they choose at the personal, professional and political levels.

I encourage every young leader to learn from indigenous people across the globe, who are modelling how to relearn how to be human anew.  Learning to become human anew ensures that we are nested within mutually supportive relationships.  Our planet will become a healtheir place as each one of us makes the values choices that more and more young people are making.  Each one of us is in leadership positions that offer opportunities for transformation toward institutional, and national cultures that are aligned to the relational values essential to life, global equity, and a healthy planet.   

Mamphela Ramphele

Co-President Club of Rome




Blog Post 1



Let me thank you all for including me in this space of your important conversations as a Senior Leadership Team.  Particular thanks to Neal Froneman and your courage to lead.  Rica Viljoen and Dawie Mostert thank you for your invitation and guidance.

We live in extraordinary times with multiple planetary emergencies.  The tragedy of the disruptive coronavirus pandemic has particularly devastated individuals and societies with pre-existing conditions.  South Africa with its pre-existing conditions of structural inequalities, poverty and unemployment, has been hard hit with the loss of lives and livelihoods. 

The COVID tragedy, like all crises, also presents us with unprecedented opportunities to harvest the lessons it is teaching us, and to reimagine how to be human in the post-COVID era.  This is an opportunity to reimagine and reframe our socio-economic systems to be fit for the 21st century.

The leadership of Sibanye/Still-water has chosen the road less well travelled.  Congratulations to Neal Froneman for the courage to lead on this road less well travelled.   Your commitment to make Sibanye-Stillwater an industry leader in sustainable mining, with shared prosperity by all stakeholders, is a big hairy goal as Jim Collins would say.  The commitment to healing, inclusion and diversity is a tall order, given our legacy of woundedness as a divided society.  Success in living your mission and realizing your vision depends on remaining firm in this commitment.

I would like to explore 3 Themes with you:

1.    How do we close the Gap between Commitment and Execution in Institutional Transformation?

2.    What is the greatest enabler of Institutional Transformation? 

3.    How to sustain Momentum for Change?


1.    Closing Gap Between Commitment and Execution

The human race has all the knowledge and experience to effect the changes needed, to ensure that we live in harmony with one another, within the planetary boundaries of the earth as a living system.  We also know from indigenous knowledge that human beings are wired to be in relation to others, and to the natural ecosystem that gives us life. Human beings are a relational species. We thrive when we feel that we belong.  Interconnectedness and interdependence are the core of the law of nature that we break at our peril. This truism has only recently been recognized by modern scientists as the accumulated wisdom of indigenous people.

We have the privilege of having as our heritage the African translation of this law of nature in Ubuntu/Botho – which literally means humanness.  The question is: why have we not lived in accordance with this wisdom, derived from thousands of years of our ancestors learning from nature?  

A growing number of people worldwide who are working in systems change have come to the conclusion that we cannot affect systemic transformation by using the same mindset that created the problems we face.  In particular, linear, mechanistic, industrial mentality that fueled the industrial revolution in Europe, that continues to shape our mindsets today, is unsuitable for 21st-century challenges.  An ironic example of the rigidity of our mindsets is the labelling of 21st century innovative technological and communications developments as "the 4th Industrial Revolution!"  

To effectively transform the workings of the mining industry (Wimpie de Klerk's Mineral-industrial complex), that has shaped our history and social relationships so fundamentally, requires fundamental transformation. Fundamental transformation demands a deep examination of how to shift mindsets to embrace it.  

Our social relationships across the board reflect traditions and practices of linear, mechanistic siloed approaches. Hierarchical, racist, patriarchal, sexist, siloed, profits at all cost mentality, have resulted in the deep wounds of pain, anger and mistrust. Marikana was the outpouring of this woundedness on that fateful day - 12/08/2012.  Transforming the broken social relationships in your operational ecosystem is the challenge you have chosen to tackle. 

Your bold strategic goals are appropriate for Sibanye-Stillwater as a global player.  You have set a very high bar for yourselves through your commitment to the 2000 model of the Good Neighbour Agreement (GNA) entered into in the USA.  The GNA, unique within the mining industry, provides an innovative partnership framework for the protection of the natural environment while encouraging responsible socio-economic development. It contractually binds partners to certain commitments and holds them to a higher standard than that required by regulatory authority processes.  

What lessons can you draw from the GNA experience in the USA, that might enable you to better execute on your high ambitions of cultural institutional transformation here in South Africa? Your stretch goals of inclusive talent management, reframing your relationships with workers at all levels, building trust and collaborative relationships with surrounding communities, healing and protecting the environment from the legacy of destructive mining practices, call for nothing less than radical transformation. 

Your commitments embrace the values of radical culture change that will shake your company and lead the charge in reimagining the mining industry in our country.  You have the opportunity to adopt a holistic institutional culture change process.  This will ensure that interconnectedness and interdependencies of all factors, internal and external, inform your strategic execution plans.  

Let us take your Women in Mining target of 30% by 2030.  This requires a mindset change from both men and women; workers and managers; communities and government authorities; shareholders and all other stakeholders.  Such mindset change will be uncomfortable because it calls for radical change in attitudes at a personal, interpersonal, family, community and societal levels.  

But like every journey, the most important step is the first step.  That first step, in this case, is for you as the Senior Management Team to travel into yourselves and honestly admit to the extent to which you need to shift your own attitudes at all levels of your lives: personal, family, networks of friends and colleagues, work and wider society.  Effective change agency requires this 'inner work' to future proof yourselves.

Mindset change in any organization is facilitated by leaders acting as change agents by changing themselves first, in order to be able to model the change they would like to see.  Systems change experts tell us that the contexts we live in, are describing each other through us.  We are transmission vehicles for values of the cultures our innermost selves have embraced.  Holistic approaches to promoting values of respect for human dignity and equality – a prerequisite to gender equality – requires that you as the senior team model those values in all your social relationships.  The personal is political, as many of us learnt years ago as activists.

Language is an important vehicle for interconnectedness.  We also know that language carries culture, but we often don't accord it the stature in requires in strategic change processes.  Our society suffers from the tendency to focus on compliance when it comes to inclusion, without following through with the dedicated resources needed to execute on agreed goals.  

Our society's token of eleven official languages has become a barrier to multilingualism.  We have been plunged into effective English monolingualism.  Monolingualism in a constitutional multilingual society, makes a mockery of the excluded languages, thereby perpetuating the legacy of humiliation. The mining industry has historically used Fanagalo as an escape route from learning languages of the workers it employs.  Fanagalo is a master-servant language that adds salt to the wounds of humiliation of lower-level workers.  Greater care has to be exercised in how you leverage local languages to enhance inclusion, belonging and trust-building in the transformation journey you have chosen.

2.    What is the greatest enabler of Institutional Transformation?

The greatest enabler of sustainable institutional transformation is the establishment of a values-based environment.  Such an environment requires doing more than list desirable values.  It requires modelling of the values by those leading the process of transformation.  Modelling values-based institutional transformation calls for 'inner work' to align your own personal and professional values with the desired ones.  The importance of this 'inner work' by you as the senior management team cannot be over-emphasised, as a signal to the rest of the organisation. 

Institutions that bring in marginalised people into their environments without the 'inner work' of healing their own internalised woundedness, tend to have trouble meeting their goals.  The primacy of a supportive culture in institutional transformation, calls for taking time to prepare the ground for receptivity of new entrants into the institution.  

Particular attention should be paid to those likely to feel threatened by new entrants.  The often ignored painful experiences of women brought into the male-dominated mining industry, and the run-away fire of gender-based violence in our society is a reflection of our failure to effectively engage male woundedness, to prepare the ground for women's entrance into previously male domains. Toxic masculinity is a symptom of the woundedness of men. Women have traditionally assuaged the woundedness of men by acquiescing to remain subservient.  

The legacy of the migrant labour system created this toxic masculinity amongst men, blunting the emotional connectedness to women and children of multiple generations of men.  Toxic masculinity is the biggest obstacle to transforming our social relationships.   Multi-generational woundedness of African men, who suffered from being on the bottom of the rung in a hierarchical colour-coded patriarchal system, has bred self-loathing in many of them.  This self-loathing undermines their ability to value life – their own and that of others. 

It is imperative to work with men to help them heal so they can rediscover the joy of self-liberation from toxic masculinity.  Only then, can men embrace women as partners who make them whole as human beings.  Restoring the humanity of men is a prerequisite to creating conducive institutional cultures for women to thrive as individuals, professionals, workers, and as family members and citizens. 

It is also essential to carefully engage new entrants so they too can have the opportunity to acknowledge and heal their own woundedness. The majority of oppressed people - be they women, children or black people in a racist society - survive by conditioning themselves to acquiesce to inequality and exclusion.  Women as nurturers of children and primary socializers have a critical role to play in breaking the vicious cycle of the culture of toxic masculinity and gender-based violence.  A wise Indigenous Indian woman in the Americas, observed that the most effective way of stopping gender-based violence, is to heal the relationships between women, so they can support one another to become the healers of their families and their men. 

Holistic approaches such as those described above, are essential to building strong foundations for lasting relationships of trust within your institution, between you and the community, between you and your peers within the industry, and between the industry and institutions of the state.  Trust relationships would go a long way to closing the gap between your goals and success in executing on them.        

3.    How to sustain the Transformation Momentum?

Our 26 years of experience as a society in transformation has shown us how easily momentum could be lost, or focus shifted in ways that undermine stated shared goals.  The 'what's in it for me' syndrome, is the biggest threat to sustaining transformation.  Evolutionary biologist, Elisabet Sahtouris, in her book, EarthDance, captured what indigenous knowledge systems and our ancient ancestors have long understood, that: "The best life insurance for any species in an ecosystem is to contribute usefully to sustaining the lives of other species."

Unfortunately, the compliance culture nurtured by our government's chosen socio-economic transformation policy, Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), has unintentionally promoted the 'what's in it for me' syndrome, with devastating consequences.  A more holistic socio-economic transformation approach, built on creating an ecosystem that promotes a win-win-win by all, would minimise the risks of pitting one set of citizens against another.  BEE is also tragically perpetuating the legacy of colour-coding and the myth of 'different races' that has caused so much damage in our society.  

International studies have demonstrated that inequality is expensive for both rich and poor. Human rights violations undermine the humanity of the oppressed and oppressor.  Crime, insecurity, mistrust and conflict are higher in highly unequal societies.  Countries with more equal societies, all things being equal, have tended to fare better in the COVID pandemic, than unequal ones like us and the USA. Equally remarkable is that countries led by women (Iceland, Finland, New Zealand, Scotland), did much better by acting more swiftly to protect life and livelihoods and to promote wellbeing for all people.  We need to find win-win-win approaches to promote shared prosperity.

This understanding would promote the complementarity of men and women; black and white people; workers and managers; shareholders and stakeholders and the nurturance of an abundance mindset. Sibanye-Stillwater has the opportunity as the industry leader to show the way that promoting inclusive collaborative approaches to generating shared prosperity, is best for all. 

The mining industry by its nature is extractive, but it needs not to stay that way.  The GNA attests to the capacity of Sibanye-Stillwater to shift towards a regenerative mode of operation.  Your ambitious strategic goals suggest that you are gearing yourself to go beyond sustainability to promote regenerative approaches.  Leen Gorissen in her book, Nature's Intelligence, suggests that regenerative development is about advancing to a different level of performance, as well as to a different level of being.  It is not just about new technology, but about a new mental model, a new role for human beings that assure a future for humans on this planet.  

A regenerative mindset in Sibanye-Stillwater would see you learning from nature's intelligence. You have the opportunity to move forward by drawing on the rich heritage of African indigenous wisdom.  This would help you be locally attuned and globally aligned.  You are poised to showing us the way as a society to elevate current practices and processes to a regenerative level.  This is the opportunity for greatness. 


Sibanye-Stillwater stands on the shores of history today.  Your high ambitions are exactly what is needed to move us from our under-performance mindset as a nation to leap into the future.  It often takes the most unlikely agents to effect the change we all aspire to but fear to embrace.  Your courage to commit to this leaping into shaping a future of inclusion and shared prosperity with all stakeholders is what our society desperately needs.  

Thank You

Mamphela Ramphele

Co-Founder of ReimagineSA

Co-President of The Club of Rome




Blog Post 2


The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world irreversibly.  Evidence from work being done by scientists across the globe suggests strongly that this coronavirus pandemic might just be a dress rehearsal.  Major disruptions are likely to continue, due to the cumulative impact of relentless human behaviour that is breaching planetary boundaries.  We would do well to carefully harvest the lessons of this pandemic and to learn to find new ways of being human.

In this talk I would like to explore the following themes: 

1.    How to Emerge from Planetary Emergencies upon us?

2.    What tools can we use to Reimagine a New reality?

3.    How to benefit from Africa's wisdom of holistic understanding and our place in Living Earth?

1.    How to Emerge from Emergencies upon us?

The beginning of wisdom is acknowledgement. Humanity has yet to fully acknowledge the dire situation we are in.  The Report of a consortium of scientists entitled Climate Reality Check 2020, makes the following points: 

  • 1. Warming is accelerating and is ahead of the IPCC projections used by policymakers – the reality is that 1.50C is more likely to be reached by 2030, not 2050.
  • 2. Upper Paris Agreement boundary of 20C, is likely to be reached before 2050, even with significantly better actions than in current agreements' stipulations.
  • 3. Short term action is crucial: what we do now and before 2030 matters, not aspirations about 2050: mobilising for zero emissions by 2030, not 2050 is critical; a 2050 timeframe will lead to catastrophe.
  • 4. We have passed significant multiple tipping points, a cascade is not far away: three tipping points have already occurred: West Antarctica iceberg is collapsing, coral reefs are eroded, and the Arctic pole has had the hottest summer ever.  Several other climate systems including Greenland and Amazon are on the precipice.
  • 5. There is a growing risk that we will pass a point of no return in which the climate system will run away from any human capacity to stop accelerating warming – this is referred to as the Hothouse Earth scenario of non-linear, irreversible, self-sustaining warming.

The above changes are consequences of our way of life as a human race.  We have tended to be extractive and degenerative in our use of earth's resources, and in our relationships with other forms of life.  Biodiversity and ecosystems have been compromised, leading to the unleashing of previously unknown viruses that have triggered disease outbreaks in different parts of the world, including the current coronavirus pandemic.  Planetary emergencies are not climate or health or livelihoods challenges.  They are multiple and interlinked tipping points. They are challenging us to embrace the interconnectedness and interdependence of the earth as a living system.   Our role in the earth's living system as the newest arrivals needs to be tempered by humility and openness to learning from millions of years of nature's intelligence.  

De Hock, founder and emeritus CEO of VISA, observed that there is an ingrained unconscious way of thinking that forms the deepest barrier to transformations our world urgently needs: "Deep in most of us, below our awareness, indelibly implanted there by three centuries of the industrial age, is the mechanistic, separatist, cause-and-effect, command-and-control, machine model of reality."  It is remarkable how even as we speak of 21st-century innovations we speak of them as part of the "the 4th Industrial Revolution!"  This industrial model of thinking persists despite abundant evidence of non-industrial and non-mechanistic reality around us, that speaks to the interconnectedness and interdependence of the ecosystems we live and work in.   

It is this deep unconscious mechanistic, separatist, cause and effect, and command and control mindsets, that has created, and perpetuates, the silos in academia.  These silos make it difficult to work across boundaries of disciplines and fields of study.  Multi-disciplinarity, let alone trans-disciplinarity, requires us to let down the high mental walls behind which, we continue to work in holy isolation from one another.  Human, social, natural, biological, mathematical disciplines are inextricably linked.  Adherence to disciplinary silos robs us of the opportunities to innovate at the margins.  It is at the threshold of every aspect of life where the greatest innovation impetus lies.  

2.    What Tools can we use to Reimagine a New Reality in Academia?

Emergence from the multiple Planetary Emergencies will take a radical change in mindsets.  We need to move from linear mechanistic mindsets to systems thinking to enable us to fully apprehend Mother Earth's life-giving processes and the complexity of the web of life.  This requires a willingness to explore being human in a different way.  

Donella Meadows, the lead author of the seminal 1972 Club of Rome's report, The Limits to Growth, encourages us "to dance with systems."  Her life's work taught her that we cannot control or figure out complex systems, but we can dance with them.  Dance is an important tool because of its invitation to cross the threshold and engage wholeheartedly.  

Dance is a tool that teaches one to first "get the beat" and "watch how the system (dance floor) behaves before you jump in."  As Africans, we have music rhythm engrained into our genetic make-up.  Just watch a toddler dance in sync with the beat without any coaching!  This is inbuilt within us - a capacity to dance with systems. 

Donella Meadows calls for defying the disciplines to be able to see beyond them to apprehend the wholeness of systems and learn from them.  Trans-disciplinary work requires expanding one's thought horizons beyond being academically correct.  It requires a commitment to working with others across boundaries, getting into collaborative learning mode, admit ignorance, and be willing to be taught by others and by the system being explored.  The question is whether you, as practising academics, are prepared to take the risk of defying disciplinary boundaries?  Are you willing to engage the excitement of working at the margins?  You need to explore and acknowledge where your fears about the risks of the trans-disciplinarity lie?

Leen Gorissen points the way in her latest book, Nature's Intelligence that:  "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In science, we call these phenomenon emergent properties, which are entirely unexpected and can only arise from the collaborative functioning of a system but do not belong to anyone part or individual of that system."  Climate change and other planetary emergencies upon us cannot be tackled within disciplinary boundaries.  It is only by willing to cross the threshold that possibilities open up.  Are we ready to cross?


It is clear that climate change is one of the wicket problems we have created by disrespecting planetary boundaries.  Climate change cannot be fixed by technological means.  It requires a new way of thinking about who we are, what do we value most in life, how do we relate to one another, and to all of life in the living earth system? A fundamental change that is urgently needed is the acknowledgement that we are part of nature, and inextricably linked to all living beings in an existential interdependence.  

What is remarkable is how scientists the world over are now turning to African wisdom for answers to the complexities of life.  African wisdom has been carried to many parts of the world by the ancients of indigenous people who migrated to Asia, the Americas, Australia, and Island states across the globe.  Indigenous wisdom about the interconnectedness and interdependence of all living beings is being drawn upon by biologists, evolutionary scientists, ecologists, etc. to shed light on the relational dimensions of the living earth.  Ironically, this turning to African wisdom is often done without conscious acknowledgement that Africa is not only the cradle of humanity but also the cradle of human civilisation.  

For example, Leen Gorissen made this revealing observation:

" Native societies, which endured for centuries with little increase in the capacity to receive, utilise, store, transform, and transmit information, had time to develop a very high ratio of understanding and wisdom to data and information. They may not have known a great deal by today's standards, but they understood a very great deal about what they did know.  They were enormously wise in relation to the extent to which they were informed, and their information was conditioned by a high ratio of social, economic and spiritual value." 

It is extraordinary that such a great scholar does not know nor acknowledge that "the capacity to receive, utilise, store transform and transmit information," was in existence in Africa thousands of years before any other part of the world. Extensive documented evidence of African civilization prior to colonialisation has been captured by African scholars exemplified by Senegalese polymath, Cheikh Anta Diop.

Elisabet Sahtouris, an evolutionary biologist, in her book, EarthDance, falls into the trap of failing to acknowledge the full extent of Africa's seminal contribution to scientific knowledge when she states that: "The best life insurance for any species in an ecosystem is to contribute usefully to sustaining the lives of other species, a lesson we are only now beginning to learn as humanity."  Sahtouris' extremely important observation about the existential imperative of interdependence for all species in our planetary system that our ancient ancestor understood aeons ago, runs the risk of being lost.  Her reference to the "we" who are only now becoming aware of this wisdom, raises a fundamental problem of undervaluing the importance of context in our work as academics.  

Context matters.  The universal "we" does not do justice to those human beings who were born into and continue to be immersed in cultures that are grounded in this understanding.  Africans and indigenous people the world over, know that "to be human is to be in relation to others."  They know that interdependence is the only way of securing the sustainability of our own lives.  There is no I without the We. 

The Club of Rome Africa Chapter, of which I am a member, has taken up the challenge of articulating the importance of consciousness of the impact of context on the observations we make as scholars.  The paper, New Narrative of Hope, addresses the conundrum of universality in a pluriversal world. It calls for African scholars to be alert to the need for a radical shift of the epistemic lens we use in our work. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, who is quoted in the paper, notes that: "Once the epistemic centre of the universe has been decolonized, a pluriverse of multiple centres of decolonial knowledge opens up…Just because slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and structural adjustment did so much damage, this does not mean greatness is impossible."   

The tools we require to emerge from the multiple planetary emergencies we face are at hand.  We need to shift our gaze from the narrow focus within disciplinary boundaries, to see the immense possibilities at the margins in terms of time and place.  We also need to draw on our rich African cultural heritage and wisdom to start actively dancing with systems thinking.  But first, we need to listen to the beat, to watch the dynamics of the dancing floor, before we jump in.  Once in the dance, we will discover anew that the "I am because you are," is not only the life insurance we all need as a human species to survive. We will discover and live our lives with due reverence for all life on earth.  



3.    How do we Leverage Africa's Wisdom to Learn Anew How to be Human?

We have a wonderful opportunity as African scholars to become champions of Africa's wisdom to help the global human community to learn the lessons of the post-COVID era, and to reflect them in our everyday lives and work.

First, we need to learn a lot more about our ancient African history and its seminal contributions to human civilisation.  It cannot be right that the strongest African Studies Centres and Institutes in our world are outside the African continent.  Online tools and virtual meeting facilities make collaboration much easier and affordable.  We need to dare to cross boundaries as African institutions and collaboratively establish multi-centred Institutes of true trans-disciplinary African Studies on our continent.

Second, there is a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with scholars in the African Diaspora through online and virtual tools to benefit from their global exposure and harvest the wisdom of their work wherever they are.  African scholars in the diaspora often sharpens the pluriversal lens because of their exposure to unapologetic universality in Euro-American contexts many find themselves in.  Learning from their experiences would be enriching.

Third, we need to collectively challenge "universality" wherever it rears its ugly head.  We need to promote pluriversality to enable us to enrich our scholarly work beyond the current Euro-American epistemic dominance.  We need to reach out to China, Korea, India, Japan and Latin America, to enrich our own perspective on the shared global challenges we face. We need to harvest the wisdom of how to overcome these over-bearing universality from other contexts.  We need to intentionally harvest the abundance of wisdom from interconnectedness and interdependence across boundaries.

Finally, we need to commit to stop teaching orthodoxy in the humanities and social science disciplines, particularly with reference to history, economics and religion. Orthodoxy in our education systems is undermining the futures of young people in a world that calls for the ability to ask difficult questions.  

We need to relearn how to be more effective facilitators of self-liberation learning and stimulation of young minds, to enable them to engage in the dance with complex systems. Young people need to develop a more acute consciousness of the heritage of the wisdom of their ancestors, as a rock on which to build reimagined futures they desire to shape. 

Thank You

Mamphela Ramphele

Co-President of the Club of Rome, and 

Co-Founder of ReimagineSA



This website makes use of cookies. Please see our privacy policy for details.