Prof Mkhize - people in South Africa need to “reclaim” their values as human beings.

Social Change Prof Mkhize The Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Professor Hlengiwe Buhle Mkhize, was awarded the Rhodes University Psychology Department’s Social Change Award on Tuesday night (20 September). Prof Mkhize said she was honoured to receive the award from a prestigious institution like Rhodes. Prof Mkhize discussed her paper entitled “The Role of Social Psychology in Promoting Democracy and Managing Apartheid Related Legacies and Challenges”.

During the last years of apartheid there had been an increasing recognition among psychologists that the “dominant western models about thinking about people and mental health” were problematic and tended to “neglect social, cultural, political and historical dimensions of human existence”. Prof Mkhize believes the tools of analysis deployed by social psychologists in their studies of group conflict could assist South Africa to manage its apartheid related legacy and challenges.

Prof Mkhize in her presentation said “The scars of apartheid in South Africa are very deep and they affect all races and classes in our society. We come from a past where violence was state-sanctioned and the social system was based on authoritarianism and the silencing of the majority.”

She said social psychologists should explore how South Africans could “nurture and develop” a progressive democratic value system.

“As a post-conflict society, South Africa faces challenges of social cohesion and social inclusion. Whilst we rightly claim that we are ‘Proudly South African’, we generally practice discrimination against foreigners, gays and lesbians. Our society still needs to learn the rules of public discourse, to disagree without hurling insults; to accept that there are differences in society but that those differences should not hinder us in executing the primary task of building a new peaceful and democratic South Africa that embraces unity in diversity.”

She said people in South Africa and other post-conflict countries on the continent needed to “reclaim” their values as human beings.

“Our citizens should therefore be educated, proactive, critical and active citizens, capable of processing information at a higher level and contribute to the building of bridges between previously divided communities.”

Citizens should take responsibility for their own actions and strive to develop a South African identity “based on peaceful co-existence, non-racialism and non-sexism”. She said there was potential for the social psychology discipline to contribute to what she termed the “scholarship of national reconciliation”.

“Social Psychology should help us to understand, explain and intervene in various social phenomena and challenges such as violence, crime, gender based violence, class and racial discrimination and prejudice against foreign nationals within our boundaries.”

Rhodes Vice-Chancellor Dr Saleem Badat, who presented the award to Prof Mkhize, said sheSocial Change Dr Badat was “fabulously deserving” of the award, not just for her contribution to the discipline of psychology but also for the role she played as a scholar and “public intellectual” in society.

Prof Hlengiwe Buhle Mkhize is the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Chairperson of Transparency International, South Africa, and Chairperson of University Council, University of Zululand. Trained as a clinical psychologist, she occupied the position of lecturer and senior lecturer at the University of Zululand (1984 – 1990) and senior lecturer and researcher at the University of the Witswatersrand (1990 – 1995). Leaving academia, she served as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission Commissioner and Chairperson of the Reparations and Rehabilitation committee (1995 – 2003), and as Reparations officer in the president’s fund located in the Ministry of Justice (2003 – 2008), she took up the position of Deputy Minister of Correctional Services and later of Higher Education and Training.

Picture by Judith Doubell

Last Modified: Sun, 01 Jul 2012 17:24:08 SAST