Dr. Charles V. Hamilton (BA, ’51) esteemed Roosevelt alumnus and retired Columbia University professor of political science joined the South African Consul General, Ambassador Nomvume Magaqa and Dr. Heather Dalmage, Director of the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation to discuss the 100th anniversary of the African National Congress (ANC). Introduced by Roosevelt’s own Denise Bransford, the panel talk was given at the Murray-Green Library, in the Auditorium Building in the Chicago campus.
The discussion centered on a number of issues facing South Africa – particularly the philosophy of ubuntu, which concerns itself with the relationships between people, themselves and their communities – a matter of emphasizing the interconnectedness between individuals and the communities around them. After being introduced, Dr. Dalmage shared some of her experiences and work in relation to South Africa and discussed the lack of the feeling of ubuntu among young white South Africans.
Dr. Hamilton discussed the current state of the ANC, and maintained that the perceived dissension in its ranks can actually be a healthy dialogue among its leaders. He pointed to other movements and democracies, including the Civil Rights Movement and highlighted the fact that the leaders and supporters of the Civil Rights Movement were also in conflict at times about tactics. It was important to note that these movements for social betterment and change are not monolithic, but diverse and complex.
During the question and answer portion of the evening the Ambassador pointed to the issue of gender equity in the ANC as well as South Africa. She remarked that she was optimistic about the issue of women’s rights in South Africa, and offered the audience a dose of perspective when pointing out that the female presence in government and business in South Africa is proportionally comparable to that of the United States.
Dr. Hamilton also fielded questions and talked about the African-American presence in South Africa – particularly in investment and the business sector. Both he and the Ambassador agreed that real progress was being made with measurable results, but that because South Africa’s democracy is very young, it takes time and will not be achieved in monumental sweeps. The Q&A also moved into a discussion about social movements in general and how they are practiced.
The event was well-attended and the panelists were warmly welcomed. Because Dr. Hamilton is an alumnus, this was a family reunion of sorts, and many of his admirers and supporters were in attendance. In addition, Ambassador Magaqa repeatedly invited members of the audience to visit the South African Consulate for more information.