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Conversations with My Sons and Daughters

ISBN 9780143530411
As founder of the Citizens Movement, which later morphed into AGANG, Dr Mamphela Ramphele has come to represent the nagging conscience of the rulers. But this role is not new to her – she’s hardly a sunshine stirrer of the waters. She did it even under the apartheid government during her banning orders, where she taught rural folk to sustain themselves through such endeavours as vegetable gardens. Even up to this day, she still is a thorn on the side of the authorities, asking difficult questions.
This book is an extension of the Ramphele persona that says the nearly 52 million South Africans are not mere subjects but full citizens with rights – and responsibilities. Citizens take up the cudgels for their own causes and do not leave it to government, she argues in the book.
A native of rural Limpopo who grew up in the traditional folk tales around the fire era, this is a model of imparting knowledge that she places a great premium on. She’s been asked by countless young people to mentor them in various areas of their young lives. The book is meant to take forward the conversations she’s had with these young people. The future belongs to them, she implores, so this requires of them to stand up and, in her words, re-mobilise themselves as citizens and reassert themselves as sovereigns and shareholders f this country.
Those who have approached her to personally tap into her wealth of wisdom are mostly young black professionals but the author is mindful of the fact that are large number of her sons and daughters are the “more than three million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years [who] are not in school, not in training not at work”.
The freedom many enjoy today came as a result of the hard work and selflessness of the young people of 1976. Her sons and daughters, Dr Ramphele urges, can bring about the highly sought change in the way government does or does not do things. The education system, for example, cannot be in such a sorry state if the leaders of tomorrow would rise up and stop sitting on their laurels.
There are benefits to this ‘unity in diversity’ but it is up to our future leaders to take the leaf out of book of those like Greece who have the utmost respect for their culture. Her target audience, she says, live in a country that has made stride constitutionally and it is up to them to use this space to protect the human rights of other people, even those who are not heterosexual.
What are our values as a society, the things that make as who we are as a people? Ubuntu, she says, should not just be a buzz word – live it.
We live under the guidance of a failing leadership, many of whom sacrificed their youth to fight apartheid. Is it their birthright to now lead us, even when it is blatantly clear that they have no skills to do so?
This is Ramphele at her probing best. The only thing that will militate against the success of these Conversations would be the so-called youth apathy that places the ownership of electronic gadgetry above all else.
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