On Friday 21st October the Ubuntu Foundation hosted a business networking breakfast in collaboration with MMI Holdings and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Cape Town. Trevor Manuel, guest speaker for the event, addressed a number of issues on what he called the challenging times in South Africa at the moment.
The key theme from his address and a topic he frequently revisited was what he terms the struggle against forgetting. “We must never allow ourselves to forget who we are, where we came from and why we must move forward”. Using this as a basis, Manuel tackled several key issues currently facing South African society.
The education crisis: Manuel pointed to a recent report that sheds light on the fact that about 60% of pupils have not learnt to read meaningfully in any language by the end of Grade 3, and 75% of teachers do not have content knowledge beyond Grade 7 Maths. This led Manuel on to the challenges facing higher education institutions.
Here, he noted that the money for no increase in fees last year was drawn from the budget for foundation education. This led him to pose questions on how the country could achieve suitably qualified university graduates in light of inferior basic and secondary education systems.
Transformative, positive active leadership: In light of challenges raised, Manuel pointed to the context of Ubuntu. “If it is only ‘ek’ (me) that matters, you do not have a society,” he said. This is where active and positive leadership needs to step in.
Manuel mentioned that to many, things feel slightly out of control at the moment, however this is a time when “the best among us need to demonstrate that they are prepared to sometimes make unpopular decisions for the greater good”.
Again Manuel reiterated that we need to understand where we come from and know where want to go. “We must be vigilant about where we are and the risks we face,” he said. In his view, the path of least resistance is a comfort zone which is the antithesis of nation building.
His address ended with an inspirational and strong call for bold and brave leadership in South Africa in order to build a trusting relationship inside and outside of the country.
“We must understand what the motto on our coat of arms is all about: unity in diversity. It is not something we are born with. It happens if we are encouraged to interact.”
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