Lessons from a Fledgling Democracy with Mamphela Ramphele, M.D., Ph.D.

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For more than 50 years the dream of a free democratic South Africa has been Dr. Mamphela Ramphele’s focus and one that covers her every waking moment in action. She’s worked tirelessly for systemic, societal change in order to help her country of South Africa break free from the barriers of bondage into freedom. She understands that beyond physical freedom there is a psychological, self-imposed limitation that must be included in freeing oneself from oppression. She says, “A fully conscious human being is a citizen who not only asserts their rights and exercises their responsibilities, but is also seized with the historic mission to leave the world a better place.” This deep dialogue explores both the successes and failures of the twenty-three year history of the South African Democracy as well as the 200 plus years of the United States democracy. How are they the same and how are they different and what can we learn from them? (hosted by Justine Willis Toms) 


Mamphela Ramphele, M.D., Ph.D. is an activist, medical doctor, academic, businesswoman, and global servant. Besides her medical degree, she holds a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology. She was the managing director of the World Bank, and is a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, as well as chairwoman of the Bishop Desmond Tutu Trust. She also serves as co-president of the Club of Rome, which was founded in 1968 as a nonprofit, informal organization of intellectuals and business leaders whose goal is to identify holistic solutions to complex global issues, and to promote policy initiatives and actions to enable humanity to emerge from multiple planetary emergencies.

Mamphela Ramphele is the author of:

  • A Passion for Freedom (I.B. Tauris 2014)
  • Conversations with My Sons and Daughters (Penguin 2013)
  • Dreams, Betrayal and Hope (Penguin Books 2017) 

To learn more about the work of Mamphela Ramphele go to www.mamphela-ramphele.com. 

Topics explored in this dialogue include: 

  • What was the political climate of South Africa in the late 1970s
  • How the 1994 South African political settlement did not go far enough
  • Why you cannot have political freedom without socio-economic freedom
  • What is meant by the African saying “When you walk fast you walk alone. If you want to walk far, you must walk together”
  • Why we need to “linger longer” in difficult conversations
  • What is the concept of the African philosophy of ubuntu
  • Why the teaching of history is immensely important in a robust educational system
  • How Africa has a rich history as the cradle of humanity and the cradle of civilization that taught the Greeks their philosophy
  • What is the result of the colonization of the educational system systematically denying children their original African names
  • How the Blacks brought to America as slaves were forced to take the names of their oppressors
  • What are African apartheid cities and how they also exist in the U.S.
  • How many oppressed people are not truly liberated in their souls
  • What is the example of a truly liberated city of Cardoso, Brazil
  • What is the positive example of how Germany equalized its citizens economically and with access to opportunity after reunification
  • What is the responsibility of corporations to civil society
  • What role does individual self-worth play in the success of a nation 

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 5/20/2022   Program Number: 3760

Music Playlist

From Album:  Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Friends
Artist: Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Opening Essay: Track 14 Angimboni Ofana Naye (with SABC Choir)
Music Break 1: Track 10 Mbude (with Taj Mahal)
Music Break 2: Track 13 Sohlabele Hasana (with Nana Coyote Motijoane)
Music Break 3: Track 15 Mamizolo