On 17 November the Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL) honoured Dr Mamphela Ramphele with the Leadership in Practice (LIP) award.
Since the first LIP award was presented in 1989 the SBL has used this award to acknowledge South Africans who have outshone many others in their holistic leadership acumen and achievements in their chosen careers. Throughout the years, individuals of the calibre of Cyril Ramaphosa, Cheryl Carolus and Dr Aggrey Klaaste have been honoured for their dedication and exceptional contribution in leadership.
Dr Mamphela Ramphele has excelled as an academic, business woman and human rights activist helping to pave the way for sustainable political and intellectual democracy in South Africa. As a child of the struggle she was one of the founders of the Black Consciousness Movement, alongside Steve Biko. Throughout the years she also persevered as an academic, qualifying, amongst others, as a medical doctor and also completing a PhD in Social Anthropology. In 1996 she climbed steps to the academic stage once again but this time to be appointed to the position of Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, becoming the first black woman to hold this position at a South African university.
“Why are leaders great? Because they stand up for what they believe in.” These were the opening words of Prof David Abdulai, CEO and Executive Director of Unisa SBL, as he introduced the 2010 winner of the LIP award. Prof Abdulai urged leaders not to turn a blind eye to injustice, and in closing said that great men and women must be tested in the laboratory of adversity.
Recognise your greatness
In her address Dr Ramphele said that it is time that South Africans transform themselves from being less than human beings to being the owners of the greatest country on the greatest continent. She said that South Africa’s greatness is undermined by our lack of belief in ourselves. We still have the attitude of “subjects”. She pleaded with South Africans to recognise their own greatness and to be that leader that we are waiting for.
“The Lord created each of us with great talents,” Dr Ramphele said.
“Imagine what we can accomplish when we can use all the talents in South Africa?” She urged all South Africans not to be treated as subjects and to stand up and say “no” when any other person in this country is treated as a subject. She also said that public servants must stand in service of the public and not the public in service of public servants.
In the seven years from 1977 - 1984 Dr Ramphele was banished by the old South African government and sent to the town of Tzaneen in the Limpopo Province. She said she kept her sanity during this time by studying through Unisa.
Celebrating her life and success with her were Zanele Mbeki, Banthu Holomisa (Major-General - retired), musicians Lira, Latoya Mangezi and Cape Town divas Three Tons of Fun, as well as master of ceremonies Tumisho Masha. Prospective recipients of this award are nominated by Unisa SBL Alumni and SBL Management, details regarding the opening of nominations for the 2011 recipient will be made available on the SBL website in March 2012.
This article originally appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper as an advertorial supplement.