NWU celebrates Africa Day by honouring struggle heroine

Issued by North West University
North-West, May 24, 2019

On 25 May 1963, Africa made history with the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor to the African Union (AU).

This day, now known as Africa Day, celebrates and acknowledges the successes of the OAU, now the AU, since its formation as part of the fight against colonialism and apartheid. It also celebrates the progress that Africa has made, while reflecting on the challenges the continent faces in a global environment.

In keeping with the commemoration, North-West University's (NWU's) campus in Mahikeng held its annual Africa Day celebrations on 16 May this year.

Dr Mamphela Ramphele, one of South Africa's leading intellectuals and the former vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT), delivered a memorial lecture in honour of fellow anti-apartheid activist, "forgotten hometown hero" Winnie Motlalepula Kgware.

In attendance were NWU vice-chancellor Professor Dan Kgwadi, the university's executive management, the Kgware family and dignitaries including advocate Mojanku Gumbi, who was legal adviser to former president Thabo Mbeki, and Strike Thokoane, president of the Azanian People's Organisation.

Kgware was born in Thaba Nchu in the Free State on 27 October 1917. A teacher by profession and resident at the University of the North's Turfloop campus, she became the first president of the Black People's Convention (BPC). The BPC was formed in 1972 as an umbrella body of the Black Consciousness Movement, led by Steve Biko.

Describing Kgware as "a true model of feminine leadership", Ramphele examined what we think emancipation is and how Kgware modelled this. She then focused on Africa as the mother continent, encouraging the audience to find ways to leverage Africa's ancient wisdom and its young population to play an active role on the world stage. She also spoke of climate change, asking how we in Africa can survive and thrive in an era of global warming that is fast threatening the entire global community.

In her closing remarks, Ramphele invited those present to recommit to healing body, mind and soul in an act of honouring the ancestors. She then asked the audience to link hands as citizens and become instruments of emancipation, so as to free the human spirit and celebrate the beauty of complementary human relationships.

"This would be the greatest tribute we could pay to Mme Kgware, the strong female leader who dedicated many of her 81 years on this Earth to leading both men and women by example," she concluded.

More about the speaker

Dr Mamphela Ramphele has had a celebrated career as an activist, medical doctor, academic, businesswoman and political thinker.

She first rose to prominence as a student, when she was a vocal member of the Black Consciousness Movement, and had two children with anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko.

She has a medical degree (MBChB) from the University of Natal, a bachelor of commerce in administration, and in 1991 obtained her PhD in social anthropology from the University of Cape Town.

Ramphele was appointed as vice-chancellor of UCT in September 1996. In 2000, she became one of the four managing directors of the World Bank in Washington, the first South African to hold this position. On her return to South Africa in 2004, she was appointed director of Corp Capital. She has sat on the boards of several corporations and charitable organisations.

Ramphele has also spearheaded various community initiatives, written numerous books, and is one of South Africa's most respected independent voices.

She has received various national and international awards in recognition of her scholarship and the leading role she has played in driving projects to improve the lives of marginalised people in South Africa and elsewhere.