Memory, Ubuntu and Inclusive Epistemology in Higher Education
UKZN’s College of Humanities recently hosted two Public Lectures as part of the Transformation and Leadership Lecture Series at the Unite Building. Renowned African Philosopher Professor Mogobe Ramose discussed the topics Romanus Pontifex: In Memory of Mother Africa and Ubuntu and Inclusive Epistemology in Higher Education.
For his first lecture, Ramose described Mother Earth as the ontological pluriversal panarium of all human beings, as well as all living entities, stating that the right to communal ownership precedes and trumps the right to private property. This, he believes, tied in with colonisation whereby ‘all the constitutions of South Africa have a bearing on the life of the conquered peoples.’
He said, ‘Whatever virtues the constitution may have, they do not, by ethical or political necessity, obliterate the ethically repugnant principle that “might is right” on which it is based. Decolonisation in Africa may be characterised as the transition from slavery by coercion to slavery by consent.’ Ramose argued that a philosophy without memory cannot abolish slavery.
For his second lecture, he stated that justice and peace demand a post-conquest South Africa. ‘The historical and epistemic links of conqueror South Africa as it is at present with her especially Western parentage and allies means that the struggle for justice and peace in South Africa is inextricably linked to the dynamics of international politics,’ claims Ramose.
He noted that the abolition of apartheid restored the freedom of the oppressed and reaffirmed the principle of equality for all human beings, saying, ‘It is only formal equality that is declared. Substantive equality is, in the circumstances a privilege of the few, and a right that many shall not enjoy in their lifetime. This, not least, because of an ethically questionable constitutional dispensation that has transmuted unjustly acquired privileges into rights deserving of legal protection.’
Ramose even questioned what has held Africa back, pointing to the continent’s origins through a lack of principled, ethical leadership. ‘Fifty-one years after the political independence of the first sub-Saharan African country, it was submitted that a famous statistic is that the whole of sub-Saharan Africa has an economy about the size of Belgium’s. Why and how can Africa permit that a country almost the size of the Kruger National Park in South Africa and with a population almost equal to that of Zimbabwe should have an economy virtually the same as the whole of sub-Saharan Africa?’ argues Ramose.
Continuing, he said, ‘It is not only time that is out of joint but it would appear that reason and ethics have also yielded to the deadly power of pecunimania; the moral illness of indiscipline and subservience to the power of money. Are we waiting for transformation or trans-substantiation? The challenge of freedom as a philosophical project for contemporary African philosophy is an undisguised invitation to martyrdom.’
DVC and Head of the College Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize said ‘the lectures by Professor Ramose opened up an avenue of conversation around issues of importance, leading to debates on decolonisation and transformation.’
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photographs: Itumeleng Masa