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Laying Ghosts to Rest

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Laying Ghosts to Rest

Dilemmas of the Transformation in South Africa


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How much do the ghosts of “racism, ethnic chauvinism, sexism and authoritarianism” still haunt South Africa?

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Villagers in small South African towns know that to exorcise the troublesome spirits of the departed, they must address their ghosts. So, too, Mamphela Ramphele – physician, educator, author and activist – forthrightly wrangles with the ghosts that still plague South Africa 14 years after apartheid. In this 2008 book, Ramphele thoughtfully and critically examines four major issues that are thwarting her country’s progress: “racism, ethnic chauvinism, sexism and authoritarianism.” She knows well of what she writes. As a founding member of the 1970s Black Consciousness Movement led by Steve Biko, she stood at the forefront of the struggle against apartheid, suffering imprisonment and banishment. getAbstract recommends her book as a sometimes searing but always forceful and unstinting appraisal of what South Africa must accomplish to realize fully its long-denied promise of equality and freedom.



On May 10, 1994, South Africa officially began its “political, economic and social transformation” by inaugurating Nelson Mandela as president. The move from an apartheid-based, minority-ruled regime to a democratic government encompassing all citizens was a remarkable development for a land long torn asunder. The nation’s rebirth was a huge experiment in creating a new order built on egalitarian rights and principles. Yet its task was not merely to refashion its institutions and laws but also to heal its spiritual and emotional scars. Lacking help in doing so, and with no clear example to follow, South Africa has had to chart its own course.

Modern South Africa was launched in 1910 when the Union of South Africa secured self-rule and Britain’s governance ended. White Afrikaners, subjugated by English occupation, had suffered atrocities during the Anglo-Boer War. Having withstood repression, the Afrikaners became the “oppressors of others weaker than themselves” by instituting apartheid policies that defined people and the opportunities available to them by race. Decades of resistance by both exiles and “iniles” (domestic opponents of the regime) followed...

About the Author

Mamphela Ramphele, a physician, chairs Circle Capital Ventures in South Africa. The former managing director of the World Bank, she was vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town. Her books include Steering by the Stars, My Life and Uprooting Poverty.

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