17 June 2020 | Story Charlene Stanley
International studies group
Dr Kundai Manamere and Dr Hlengiwe Dlamini

The International Studies Group continues to keep critical issues in Africa on the research agenda, with two of its postdoctoral research fellows awarded prestigious international research grants.

Dr Hlengiwe Dlamini won a CODESRIA (Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa) award as part of the organisation’s ‘Meaning-making Research Initiatives’. These initiatives focus on supporting research that contributes to agendas for imagining, planning, and creating African futures.

“I was over the moon when I heard that I received this award!” says an excited Dr Dlamini. “The competition was a tough one. Applications were received from 430 female applicants and just 12 were retained, including mine.”  
Her colleague in the ISG, Dr Kundai Manamere, who recently signed a book contract with Ohio University Press, has been awarded an African Peacebuilding Network (APN) 2020 Individual Research Fellowship, administered by the American Social Science Research Council.

“I am delighted to have received this award. As an early-career scholar, this is one of my several goals, and achieving it recognises and validates my work. This boosts my confidence and encourages me to keep working hard,” says Dr Manamere.

Examining border disputes
Dr Dlamini’s research project is a comparative study of two border disputes – between Cameroon and Nigeria over the Bakassi Peninsula borderland, and between Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and South Africa over the demarcation of their borders, and how the international doctrine of uti possidetis juris, as an instrument of inter-state conflict resolution, applies to these disputes.

“The doctrine of uti possidetis juris (literally translated: as you possess, thus may you possess) states that frontiers inherited from colonialism cannot be changed under any circumstance. Cameroon won its case in the International Court of Justice in 2002 in its border dispute with Nigeria and this had a direct impact on Eswatini, which also had a border dispute with South Africa,” she explains.

“The post-apartheid South African governments have been hostile to the idea of adjusting their borders with Eswatini, while the Eswatini monarchy has relentlessly been pursuing what it calls ‘its stolen territories by the British and the Boers in the 19th century’.”

Dr Dlamini will be heading a team of four female researchers from different nationalities. As soon as international flights resume, two scholars from Canada and Sweden will head for Cameroon, while she and another researcher will start with archival research in Southern Africa, before embarking on fieldwork.

“There will be no rest for us. It is incumbent on me to assemble the data collected and use it to write two or three scholarly articles for journal publications,” says Dr Dlamini.

Migration issues and public health interventions
Dr Manamere’s research focuses on documenting the experiences of former refugees and their host communities at Chambuta refugee camp, one of the five refugee camps established by the Zimbabwean government along the Mozambican border in the 1980s to accommodate asylum seekers fleeing from the Mozambican civil war.
“The project explores their experiences and examines their perceptions about conflict, displacement, refugee conditions, and the occurrence of diseases and intervention following a disease outbreak that killed nearly 200 people in August 1992. I use the Chambuta case to reflect on the politics of voice and representation in history – how official reports by governments and non-governmental organisations overshadow the experiences of refugees and host communities.”

The COVID-19 lockdowns in both South Africa and Zimbabwe have delayed Dr Manamere’s fieldwork plans. She will now first spend time collecting information from digitised archives and doing telephonic and online interviews.

ISG a melting pot for international research talent
Both researchers expressed their appreciation for the role the ISG has played in shaping their academic careers.
“By creating opportunities for me to network with renowned historians in my field, the ISG has expanded my circle of mentors. All these opportunities culminated into several achievements, including this award, forthcoming articles in leading international journals, presentations at international conferences, and a book due to be published by the Ohio University Press, one of the leading Africanist publishers in the world. To me, this is the best foundation for a successful academic career, and I am proud to be part of the group,” says Dr Manamere.

“The ISG creates one of the most convivial environments for intellectual production.  We are really flying high. The scholars of the ISG are making their mark in different ways. I am very grateful for the Stanley Trapido seminar series and other academic activities that constitute a vital crucible for the cross-fertilisation of our minds and for the acquisition of new methodologies and updates in our disciplines,” says Dr Dlamini.

Prof Ian Phimister, Head of the ISG, says the two researchers have brought great credit to the UFS and the ISG.“By winning such prestigious awards, Drs Dlamini and Manamere show themselves to be first-rate scholars. Their academic commitment and drive are exemplary. At the same time, their research projects, respectively on comparative African territorial boundary disputes and on Mozambican refugees' experiences of civil war, drought, and disease, have significant policy-making implications.”

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