Activist tackles ‘insubordinate’ leadership

Human rights activist, Pregs Govender.

UCT kicked off its Women’s Month programme with a public lecture by author, human rights activist and former Member of Parliament, Pregs Govender, on the topic of “Insubordinate Leadership”.

The inaugural Klaus-Jurgen Bathe (KJB) public lecture, which is a collaboration between the university’s KJB Leadership Programme and the Poverty and Inequality Initiative, was delivered by Ms Govender on campus on Thursday August 1.

Her lecture focused on transformational leadership. She said the issue of insubordination, of subverting what is the established order, was critical to freedom and achieving social justice and equality.

“The question at play is when people enter institutions of power, do they just replay the same dynamics or the same culture. Do they just operate based on the status quo?”

Ms Govender said the notion of leadership as one of following and leading, while taking time to centre yourself when making important decisions, was important.

“It’s not about being an exceptional person, but simply harnessing the power we all have within us,” she said.

In closing, Ms Govender said it was important to remember that you were not alone in moments of insubordination.

“There are many insubordinates who may not be there in the room with you, but who are there.”

Ms Govender was the only MP to register opposition to the arms deal in South Africa’s Defence Budget Vote and chaired public hearings on HIV/Aids that broke the silence on treatment in the African National Congress caucus.

After resigning as MP in 2002, she wrote her book, Love and Courage, A Story of Insubordination.

UCT Chancellor Graça Machel said Ms Govender was a visionary and courageous feminist leader, following in the footsteps of the many great African women activists who had achieved so much and yet were rarely properly acknowledged.

The Klaus-Jurgen Bathe (KJB) Lecture seeks to connect South Africa’s foremost critical thinkers with the UCT community and the broader public, to produce graduates with outstanding leadership qualities and a strong sense of social justice.