20 May 2015 | Kolosa Vuso | Opinion
Leadership was a huge focus during the two-day conference and Rhodes vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela took to the podium and tackled the country’s current state of affairs in his talk Where do we find ourselves: a brave new South Africa.
He started by thanking the private sector for its contribution to investing in the country through education. “One of the best investments any country can make is ensuring the youth has quality education,” he said.
Naming the challenges the country faces, Mabizela listed poverty, keeping the lights on (Eskom), xenophobia and declining investor confidence.
“We must acknowledge South Africa is a different country today. These challenges must serve as a reminder that we have a long way to go. We cannot be intimidated by them,” he told delegates.
A starting point in addressing the issues, he suggested, was to ask critical questions, including:
- How did we get here?
- How do we get ourselves out?
- What sort of leadership do we need to get out?
- Do we have those leaders?
“There’s a revolution that is happening,” Mabizela said with reference to protests that recently saw the Rhodes statue at UCT removed.
“These young people leading this revolution come from middle class [backgrounds] – what is their source of their anger? It’s the experience of unmet expectations. What kind of unmet expectation are they angry about? They are [studying] post apartheid. When they get to tertiary [level], they are confronted with racism; and academics who are unsympathetic, patronising and not prepared to understand where they come from. They are really calling for social justice,” he said.
He encouraged delegates to speak and listen to each other.
“We got swept in this whirlwind of nation-building. Many didn’t get the chance to suffer their pain. They think: ‘Who am I to be stuck in the past and Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison, says let bygones be bygones?’
“We have a festering wound that needs to be cleaned up and dressed properly. We need to listen to each other, talk to each other, not past each other,” he said.