A man of a higher order of consciousness

Carmen Marchetti, Washington DC – Former student and friend (2018)

How deeply privileged, fortunate, lucky I find myself to have enrolled for a law degree at Stellenbosch in 1993 only to be subverted in my law ambitions by the work and lectures of Prof. Sampie Terreblanche. So many of his students remember his passionate discourses on “hierdie ondermaanse bestaan”, this sub-human existence that so many of us around the globe are born into. And his cry to arms – that it is our duty to challenge the human-made structures that rob men and women of their right to dignity in life, and their right to thrive. A challenge to “create a totally new social reality.”

It is Sampie’s mind that rigorously pursued truth and understanding of the human condition from a political and economic perspective. It was, however, a good heart, a strong moral compass that was the driver behind his indefatigable intellectual persecution of the apartheid state and other systems of predatory economic extraction, ideologies of soulless materialism and mindless consumerism, and tribal religious dogmas.

Sampie has been deeply suspicious of religious dogma and the role that it had played in becoming the ideological vehicle harnessing and manipulating human energies in the subjugation of both the individual and groups of people. In this, his robust work on five hundred years of Western empire building is a testament to his creative and scholarly approach to creating intellectual frames of reference for understanding the dynamic predatory nature of modern economies.

Across his years at the University of the Free State, Harvard and Stellenbosch, Sampie’s intellectual pursuits were informed by a strong sense of a much better and more humane world where the beauty of human ingenuity, natural curiosity and a love of competition could work as complementary forces in forming a balanced system conducive to holistic development and shared prosperity. To students he would explain this as the marriage between social democracy and capitalism. His book “Politieke Ekonomie en Sosiale Welvaart” expands in detail on the multiple layers needed to balance the many demands and competing interests of human endeavour.

Sampie’s expansive work on economics, politics, and social justice is characterized by a deep burning love of the truth and a dedication to the dignity of all life. His pace of work over more than six decades has been relentless, his energies had been galvanized by the brutality and injustice of the wicked systems of oppression as manifested in apartheid and colonization. Given the threat under which democracies the world over now find themselves, Sampie’s work of the 1980s on the history and development of Western democratic institutions rings prophetic:

“Since 1941 when America accepted the leadership position of the West and role as unifying core of the anti-Communist world, more than {seven} decades have run their course. This role has, however, placed so much strain on American institutions and spiritual capacities that it appears that America is still not ready for the responsibility of global leadership… Despite the exceptional technical and production successes, and despite the access to foreign resources enjoyed by middle and multi-national businesses, the political system and capitalist economy generate a multitude of conflicting demands that it becomes simply impossible for the system to balance or meet such demands.”

In this, the invaluable work of scholars such as Sampie has contributed to the body of knowledge that guides us into the uncharted territory of a deeply integrated world driven by unprecedented technological innovation and better educated, wealthier populations. In understanding the roots of the system governing modern day economic life we are better placed to dare, as Kgalema Motlanthe writes, create a totally new social reality, securing the legacies of those that through time immemorial have spoken truth to power.

On a personal note, I am deeply grateful to Prof. Sampie for his beautiful example in living a life of moral courage in the face of so much darkness for so many years, for defying those that looked like him in defense of those that were vulnerable and had no voice, for building the bridges into the future for the younger generations so that all might share in the fruits of human endeavour and economic prosperity.

As a mother, I was deeply touched when Prof. Sampie told me he was retiring from lecturing to take care of his wife Ina who had a long struggle with cancer. He wanted to care of her as she had cared for him and their family all those many years. Prof. Sampie felt, he told me, that the intellectual success he had achieved, the long hours of relentless hard work it had demanded, would not have allowed him to have his precious family had it not been for Ina.

Prof. Sampie Terreblanche’s body of work records this endeavour of life at a higher order of consciousness, this re-imagining of human possibilities as Kgaletma Motlanthe had said of Ahmed Kathrada. Sampie’s work is a reckoning with the past, and a bridge into the future.

Sampie & Ina at the award of an honorary degree by the University of the Free State, the first of three honorary doctorates in economics.

Max du Preez, former colleague on the board of Vrye Weekblad

Sampie Terreblanche is one of my all-time favourite South Africans. Incisive, unwavering, a world-class economist, brave, stubborn. And a thoroughly decent human being.

Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, Makerere University, Kampala

I met Sampie during my three year sojourn at the University of Cape Town, 1996-99. We met several times. Once, I gave a talk to his students. Another time, he invited me to dinner at his home. We had a shared interest in the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its failure to address the question of social justice. Sampie was possessed of enormous intellectual energy, driven by a keen sense of social justice, which in turn was informed by a broad awareness of historical wrongs done to working and colonized peoples. Sampie’s life and work will be a strong inspiration to all who seek to contribute to the making of a more just world.

Gillian Schutte, film maker

Why I have so much respect for Professor Sampie Terreblanche, author of A History of Inequality in South Africa, and other works. His work comes from a place of genuine engagement. He is not trying to be original and come up with a new mind-blowing theoretical framework and interpretations to dazzle his peers. He has a genuine interest in educating the masses. He writes from a left perspective without identifying himself as a radical so his work is egoless and accessible to readers who are not economists or university level readers or radical… yet his work will inevitably radicalise readers. He does not tie us up in jargon and intimidate us with knowledge credentials. He writes in an experiential narrative that draws you in. He transmogrified from Broederbond background to enlightened human and took the hard and brutal fallout from the elite Afrikaaner Stellenbosch mafia and others. Thank you for your massive and accessible contribution to the South African knowledge base Sampie Terreblanche. I hope your books are disseminated to libraries all over South Africa and translated into indigenous languages as well as multimedia formats … to further share the profound experience of understanding the history of global economics and the heinous impact on people classified ‘not white’ by an Imperialist white Christian system.

2018-04-30T09:36:14+00:00