In various biographies, Nelson Mandela is portrayed as the product of a “tribal” world in which he watched his guardian, Chief Jongintaba, exercise a certain leadership style to run the village. However, what has not come out in these biographies is his experiences of political modernity – through his family’s “pragmatic cooperation” with colonialists and their role in the quasi-parliamentary iBhunga (traditional council).
This forms the basis of the first of the inaugural Mandela Lecture series launching this week – which is one of three institutional events planned to close off Mandela University’s year-long Centenary Celebrations programme.
The inaugural Mandela Lecture series, to be delivered by George Washington University professor and Mandela University visiting professor Xolela Mangcu, is a two-part event that explores some unknown elements of the renowned statesman.
The first lecture, titled Mandela – The Untold Heritage, takes place on 24 July and the second, titled Mandela’s Tragic Pragmatism: Leadership as Radical Sacrifice on 31 July.
The third Centenary Celebrations activity is the second Nelson Mandela Annual Youth Convention, taking place on 30-31 July, which looks at youth development during the 25 years of democracy under the sub-theme “Perspectives on Strategies and Trajectories to Accelerate Youth Inclusion”.
A year ago, Mandela University launched its year-long Centenary Celebrations Programme, which was intentionally rooted in the academic and engagement enterprise as the best contribution the institution could make towards preserving and nurturing Nelson Mandela’s legacy.
“Locating our Mandela Centenary programme in the academic enterprise resonates with the importance Mandela placed on education, illustrated so emphatically with his famous declaration in July 2003 that ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’,” Vice-Chancellor Prof Sibongile Muthwa said at the launch.
Through the various conferences, colloquia, book and film festival launches and public lectures that characterised the commemorations, the University explored the ways in which it could truly become an academic expression of Mandela, the figure of social justice. This, through excavating and critiquing the various aspects of the person and social justice figure.
The Centenary Celebrations Programme saw the University earnestly delving into the process of deepening, embedding and enhancing the meaning of its new name and identity in its core teaching, learning, research and engagement mandate and ethos.
Among the many institution-wide events and activities held over the past year – driven by all faculties and other University entities – were launches of a number of research initiatives, Chairs and centres that all contribute to what the institution is becoming in terms of its intellectual and scholarly identity.
These include the launch of the Chair for Critical Studies in Higher Education (CriSHET); Chair for Identities and Social Cohesion in Africa (ISCIA) and the Centre for Philosophy in Africa, and a critical Mandela studies programme that was the focus of the Dailbhunga: This time? That Mandela? colloquium, held in March.