Speaking at the Stellenbosch University Business School’s Leader’s Angle event, Ramphele said the country was reeling from “inter-generational trauma” caused by the Anglo-Boer wars, apartheid and the current government.
“We need an emotional settlement. You can’t have freedom without socio-economic freedom,” she said, adding that the country had “lost the passion that came with the dream of 1994”.
Ramphele referred to the country as “a one-legged pot”, with its history and present events weighing it down.
She said business schools had the opportunity to help current leaders review their roles in reimagining the country. She called on business schools to be active corporate citizens and to forge close relations with their employees.
“Is it not in the interests of business leaders to invest in promoting these civic values in their personnel development programmes so as to build shared value-based workplaces to enhance trust and productivity in business operations?” she asked.
“Business has a vested interest in ensuring that we promote the emergence of confident, skilled 21st century citizens from our schools and higher education and training system,” she said.
Citing a 2015 World Economic Forum report, Ramphele said the country’s maths and science education remained poor, with war-ravaged countries such as Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo ranking above SA in the report.
“The country will never be competitive if we don’t tackle the gross levels of education,” Ramphele said.
“African children were denied access to appropriate facilities to develop their capabilities. This ensured that they remained under-performers. The tragedy is that both black and white learners are now reaping the whirlwind of a poorly performing school system and a demoralised teacher corps.”
She also criticised the broad-based black economic empowerment scheme, saying “we made the wrong turn of going with the route of the BEE”.
On the sidelines, she told Weekend Argus that the policy wasn’t ideal as it was not “value-based” and only benefited “ANC card-carrying members”. She urged businesses to step up and tackle social injustice issues.
Ramphele lashed out at President Jacob Zuma for “repaying himself for all those years of being a herdboy”.
“We’ve allowed him and his mates from India, and he plays the race card.”
Ramphele said public sector corruption would not thrive without complicity by the private sector. “Business leaders have the opportunity to re-imagine both their country and their roles as citizens so they can be guided by an image of a future they can shape and believe in.”