Africa Day 2015

The Centre for Africa Studies at the UFS hosted an interdisciplinary project on the Bloemfontein Campus from 20-22 May 2015.

The project, entitled Contemporary Modes of Othering: Its Perpetuation and Resistance, looked at different perspectives, representations, and art forms of otherness, how it is perceived, and how it is resisted.

The annual Africa Day Memorial Lecture was held on Thursday evening 21 May 2015 at the CR Swart Auditorium. Guest speaker Prof Alcinda Honwana addressed the subject of ‘Youth Protests and Political Change in Africa.'

“Youth now seem able to display what they don’t want, rather than what they do want,” Honwana said in her opening remarks. “Thus, we see the young driven to the streets to protest against regimes.”

Honwana shed some light on recent examples of youth protests in Africa that have enjoyed global attention. Looking at the protests in Tunisia (2010), Egypt (2011), Senegal (2012), and Burkina Faso (2014), it is clear that these events in northern and western Africa have inspired others globally. Yet, Honwana stated that, despite these protests, no social economic change has been seen, and has left dissatisfaction with new governments as well.

“Once regimes fall… young activists find themselves more divided, it seems…

“Which leaves the question: Will street protests remain young people’s main mechanism to avert those in power?”

Profile: (pdf format)

Lecture: “Enough is Enough!”: Youth Protests and Political Change in Africa

Africa Day Celebrations 2014:

Prof Takyiwaa Manuh celebrated both Africa Day and her birthday with the UFS on 22 May 2014.

Being the guest speaker at the Africa Day Memorial Lecture, Prof Manuh discussed how gender-based violence and the lack of women’s true citizenship in Africa still hinder the Pan-African ideal. She asked the question: If African issues get less worldwide attention, how much less attention do African women get?

“Africa Day offers us an opportunity to revisit the Pan-African ideal and aspiration for total national liberation, equality and self-worth,” Prof Manuh said.

“This ideal has envisaged full citizenship with the enjoyment of rights and resources for the people of Africa to live a dignified and fulfilling life. Yet, the conceptions of citizenship that have emerged in several African countries do not fully incorporate women and girls.”

The lecture explored the policing of women’s bodies and sexualities as well as how their enjoyment of rights is undermined – often under the pretext of culture. Often families, communities, states, religious bodies and culture work collaboratively to mould African women into the patriarchal image of discipline and virtuousity. The epidemic of violence against females negates their fundamental human rights and their claim to full citizenship and protection within their states.

The lecture also reviewed recent efforts, including law reform, legislation and actions by activists. “The African Union and the UN need to confront these violations and suggest a robust agenda for more effective exercise of women’s citizenship rights and convergence towards the Pan-African ideal.”

Prof Manuh is currently Director: Social Development Policy Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Lecture: Gendered Violence and Women’s citizenship in Africa.

Profile: (pdf format)

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Prof Henning Melber

Africa Day Celebrations 2013:

The University of the Free State will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Africa Day, focusing in depth on issues affecting the continent. Academics from across disciplines will take part in a colloquium on the Bloemfontein Campus on 22 May 2013 discussing issues that influence the development and history of the continent, the challenges it faces, and the opportunities that lie ahead.

Hosted by the Centre for Africa Studies, celebrations will culminate with the annual Africa Day Memorial lecture to be presented by Prof Henning Melber, who will be inaugurated as an extraordinary professor at the centre. Prof Melber will speak on "Africa and Africa(n) Studies: confronting the (mystifying) power of ideology and identity".

Africa Day marks the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963. The OAU underwent a name change in July 2002 to become the African Union (AU), but the day is still commemorated to symbolise Africa’s independence from foreign political control and affirms Africa’s quest for durable peace and unity.

The Africa Day Memorial lecture and colloquium will be hosted in the CR Swart Auditorium. Registration for the colloquium takes place from 08:00 until 16:00. The Memorial Lecture begins at 18:00.

Lecture: Africa and Africa(n) Studies: confronting the (mystifying) power of ideology and identity.

Profile: (pdf format)

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Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Africa Day Celebrations 2012:

Photo Gallery:

Lecture: The Blackness of Black: Africa in the World Today

Audio of the lecture:

Profile (pdf format)

“Flowers are all different, yet no flower claims to be more of a flower than the other.” With these words Kenyan writer and one of the continent's most celebrated authors, Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o, delivered the annual Africa Day Memorial lecture in the University of the Free State's (UFS) Odeion Theatre on the Bloemfontein Campus on 25 May 2012.

Long before Prof wa Thiong’o was led inside the venue by a praise singer, all seats were filled and people had to be shown to an adjoining room to follow the lecture. Others, some on the university's Qwaqwa Campus, followed via live streaming.

In his speech Prof wa Thiong’o looked at the standing of Africa in the world today. He highlighted the plight of those of African descent who are judged “based on a negative profile of blackness”.

Prof wa Thiong’o recalled a humiliating experience at a hotel in San Francisco in the United States, where a staff member questioned him being a guest of the hotel. He shared a similar experience in New Jersey, where he and his wife were thought to be recipients of welfare cheques. He said this was far deeper than overt racism.

“The certainty is based on a negative profile of blackness taken so much for granted as normal that it no longer creates a doubt.”

Prof wa Thiong’o said the self-certainty that black is negative is not confined to white perception of black only.

“The biggest sin, then, is not that certain groups of white people, and even the West as a whole, may have a negative view of blackness embedded in their psyche, the real sin is that the black bourgeoisie in Africa and the world should contribute to that negativity and even embrace it by becoming participants or shareholders in a multibillion industry built on black negativity.”

“Africa has to review the roots of the current imbalance of power: it started in the colonisation of the body. Africa has to reclaim the black body with all its blackness as the starting point in our plunge into and negotiations with the world.”

Prof wa Thiong’o concluded by saying that Africa must rediscover and reconnect with Kwame Nkrumah’s dreams of a politically and economically united Africa.

Africa Day Celebrations 2011:

Prof Ali Mazrui

The Centre for Africa Studies celebrated the 47th anniversary of Africa Day in grand academic fashion on 25 May. The intellectual giant and guru of African Studies, Professor Ali Mazrui, reflected on the State of Affairs in post-colonial Africa in a keynote speech entitled Pro-Democracy Uprisings in Africa’s Experience: From Sharpeville to Benghazi.

Ali Al’Amin Mazrui was born in Mombasa, Kenya and obtained his doctorate from Oxford University. He is currently the Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies and Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities at Binghamton University (State University of New York). He is also Albert Luthuli Professor-at-Large at the University of Jos, Nigeria, and Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large Emeritus, and Senior Scholar in Africana Studies at Cornell University. Professor Mazrui previously served as Chancellor of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi, Kenya (2003-2009) and as Head of the Department of Political Science and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Makerere University (1974-78). He served as Professor and Director of the Centre for Afro-American and African Studies at the University of Michigan (1978-1981). Lecture

Description: 2010 Colloquium on Migration Tags: 2010 Colloquium on Migration

From left to right (front):
Dr Monica Juma, Mr Vincent Williams and Prof Hussein Solomon.
Back: Profs Simon Bekker, Lucius Botes and Dr Aurelia Segatti

Africa Day Celebrations 2010:

Colloquium on Migration

On 25 May 2010, the Centre for Africa Studies celebrated Africa Day by hosting a highly successful colloquium on migration. A panel of acclaimed scholars from across South Africa (US, AISA, IDASA, UP and Wits) presented papers on the theme, Migration and Africa: From Analysis to Action. Topics included migration patterns, the challenges of urban governance, economic and development impacts, Southern African regional integration and policy frameworks, as well as issues of xenophobia. Around fifty people attended, including several representatives from the Premier’s office, the IEC, the Department of Public Service and Administration as well as the International Organisation of Migration.

This colloquium forms part of an on-going series of panel discussions on burning issues affecting the continent. The discussions are open to the public and designed to be informative and intellectually engaging.

The presentations and/or papers can be accessed by clicking on one of the following links:

Professor Mahmood Mamdani visits CAS and delivers memorial lecture

“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) accepted as legitimate the rule of law that undergirded apartheid. It defined as crime only those acts that would have been considered criminal under the laws of apartheid.”

This statement was made by the internationally acclaimed scholar, Prof Mahmood Mamdani, when he delivered the Africa Memorial Lecture at the University of the Free State (14 July 2010) on the topic: Lessons of Nuremberg and Codesa: Where do we go from here?

“According to the TRC, though crimes were committed under apartheid, apartheid itself – including the law enforced by the apartheid state – was not a crime,” he said.

According to Mamdani, the social justice challenges that South Africa faced today were as a result of the TRC’s failure to broaden the discussion of justice beyond political to social justice.

He said it had to go beyond “the liberal focus on bodily integrity” and acknowledge the violence that deprived the vast majority of South Africans of their means of livelihood.

“Had the TRC acknowledged pass laws and forced removals as constituting the core social violence of apartheid, as the stuff of extra-economic coercion and primitive accumulation, it would have been in a position to imagine a socio-economic order beyond a liberalised post-apartheid society,” he said.

“It would have been able to highlight the question of justice in its fullness, and not only as criminal and political, but also as social.” He said the TRC failed to go beyond the political reconciliation achieved at Codesa and laid the foundation for a social reconciliation. “It was unable to think beyond crime and punishment,” he said.
He said it recognised as victims only individuals and not groups, and human rights violations only as violations of “the bodily integrity of an individual”; that is, only torture and murder.

“How could this be when apartheid was brazenly an ideology of group oppression and appropriation? How could the TRC make a clear-cut distinction between violence against persons and that against property when most group violence under apartheid constituted extra-economic coercion, in other words, it was against both person and property?”, he asked. “The TRC was credible as performance, as theatre, but failed as a social project”.

Prof Mamdani is the Director of the Institute of Social Research at the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda; and the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government in the Department of Anthropology at the Columbia University in New York, USA.

To access Prof Mamdani's lecture, click here

Africa Day Celebrations 2009:

Prof Achille Mbembe

On 25 May 2009, the Centre hosted the first annual Africa Day Memorial Lecture. The event was attended by more than 150 guests from the University as well as the local community. Prof Achille Mbembe, distinguished researcher and Political Scientist, then from the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) delivered the keynote address on Is Africa ready for democracy? In typical African style, an imbongi, Mr Sam Mooi, also honoured Africa through his praise poetry.

Africa Day is the day on which Africa observes the creation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963. The primary aims of the OAU were to promote the unity and solidarity of African states and act as a collective voice for the African continent, to secure Africa's long-term economic and political future and to rid the continent of all remaining forms of colonialism. The OAU initiatives paved the way for the birth of the African Union (AU) which formally replaced the OAU in July 2002. Also, with greater powers to promote African economic, social and political integration and a stronger commitment to democratic principles, the AU was expected to make a difference.

Africa Day should be a day on which all African countries rightfully celebrate their continent’s achievements. Equally so, this should be a day of reflection, accountability, and preparation for all the present and the future challenges facing the continent. In this context, the Centre for Africa Studies is proud to be hosting this event, thereby giving the community of the University of the Free State an opportunity not only to reflect on the past experiences and achievements, but also to critically assess the failures, challenges, and the lessons learnt for the sake of a better future for the continent’s people.


T: +27 51 401 2240 or

Marizanne Cloete: +27 51 401 2592

Neliswa Emeni-Tientcheu: +27 51 401 2536
Phyllis Masilo: +27 51 401 9683

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