NMU hosts webinar on (re) assessing Mandela

The Nelson Mandela Foundation and Education Transformation at Nelson Mandela University hosted a Zoom webinar with international scholars titled ‘(Re)assessing Mandela’
FOCUS ON MANDELA: The Nelson Mandela Foundation and Education Transformation at Nelson Mandela University hosted a Zoom webinar with international scholars titled ‘(Re)assessing Mandela’
Image: NMU/ FACEBOOK

Established international scholars spent some time in the Bay — virtually, that is — this week to look at Nelson Mandela’s impact on the country, both the past and the future.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation and Education Transformation at Nelson Mandela University hosted a Zoom webinar with international scholars titled “(Re) assessing Mandela.

The webinar took place on Thursday, during Mandela Month, in commemoration of the social justice icon’s birthday and ahead of the 18th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture.

Towards the end of 2019, the Journal of Southern African Studies published a special issue under the theme Reassessing Mandela, which included 10 articles from various scholars.

Two of those scholars, Xolela Mangcu, a professor of sociology and history and the director of Africana Studies at George Washington University, and professor Shireen Hassim, the Canada 150 Research Chair in gender and African politics at Carleton University, presented their contributions on the webinar.

The discussion was aimed at engaging with current Mandela scholarship, identifying and exploring fresh lines of inquiry and to distil critical questions that would be helpful in advancing the work under way towards the establishment of a transdisciplinary institute for Mandela studies.

Mangcu in his presentation was against how Mandela was represented in every biography as being Xhosa, as he felt it reduced the significance of various groups — the Thembu, the Bhaca and the Xhosa — into one group.

“It is troubling to me that we’ve been given this shaky history. Davidson Don Tengo Jabavu, Mandela’s professor at  Fort Hare University, gets little to no mention.

“As an African I’m thinking what must it have been like for Mandela to be around Jabavu and Zachariah Keodirelang Matthews as intellectuals, and how they helped to shape Mandela.”

Hassim in her discussion said she wasn’t suggesting Nelson Mandela didn’t deserve a place among extremely important people in several centuries, but rather she was concerned by who were political leaders.

“I don’t think it’s particularly new that his [Mandela’s] 1980s were made with the political work that Winnie Mandela had to do.

“We saw Winnie’s work while Mandela was in prison cocooned from the challenges that faced other people — not to say prison was a walk in the park.

“Her life was different, her many mistakes in the 1980s, the impact of torture, repeated, her invasion of privacy, it made it very difficult for her to emerge differently from how she did.”

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