Black v-c quits SA for World Bank job

October 1, 1999

Mamphela Ramphela, the first black vice-chancellor of a formerly white South African university, has quit her job at the University of Cape Town to become a managing director of the World Bank.

The news came as a shock to Cape Town academics, who have experienced big changes under Dr Ramphela since her appointment in 1996 - and perhaps as a relief to some on campus and in government who have found her frankness hard to handle.

A leading black consciousness activist during the anti-apartheid struggle, Dr Ramphela did not flinch from conflict as she set about achieving equity and transformation at Cape Town, South Africa's leading research institution.

During the past three years she has restructured the academic programme, ushered in a new leadership, and earned a reputation as a fearlessly independent thinker with a deep commitment to academic standards. Under Dr Ramphela's tenure, research has flourished and Cape Town has become the premier destination for students.

She will leave in the middle of next year to become one of four managing directors of the World Bank in Washington - one of the most senior positions ever held by a South African in an international organisation. Her human development portfolio is responsible for education, health and social services.

"My qualifications and experience lie exactly in the fields of education, health and social services," she said in a statement this week. "I feel ready to involve myself in these areas on a global scale as we head into the 21st century."

Trained as a medical doctor, then banished for years to a poor rural part of South Africa, Dr Ramphela worked in community medicine for many years. Distance learning earned her further qualifications, and she went on to work and study for a doctorate in anthropology at Cape Town. She has written several books, including texts on poverty and the environment.

Dr Ramphela said she will "not be deserting either the country or the continent of my birth".

"I see human development in Africa as a huge priority and shall not be neglecting this in my new post."

Kader Asmal, South Africa's new education minister, said Dr Ramphela's move demonstrates how the new South Africa is not only able to benefit from skills abroad but is able to provide its best thinkers to enrich world organisations.

"She will go with the best wishes of her country, including the education sphere," Mr Asmal said in the national newspaper Business Day.

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