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18 April 2019 | Story Rulanzen Martin

The Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice IRSJ) has initiated a Social Justice Week at the University of the Free State (UFS), which started on Friday 12 April  until Wednesday 17 April 2019. 

Ten key events took place during the week. It ranged from dialogues, workshops, talk shows, debates, and interactive displays and events on issues of multilingualism and diversity, social innovation, engaged scholarship, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, gender sensitisation, sexual consent, sexual preparedness, universal access, disability, anti-discrimination, and security.

There was also a round-table discussion on 17 April 2019 with various UFS stakeholders on off-campus student security as well as an inter-institutional discussion on the same topic. The UFS Debating Society will take on the topic of the UFS Language Policy, while Olga Barends from the Free State Centre for Human Rights will host a dialogue on sexual consent.

The IRSJ has also designed and implemented SOJO-VATION: Social Innovation/ Social Change, which strives to create a foundational platform where ideas of social justice, innovation, and engaged scholarship at the UFS and in society can be hosted. SOJO-VATION partners with the Office for Student Leadership, Development, and Community Engagement.

The collaborating partners for the Social Justice Week includes various UFS stakeholders such as the Sasol library, the Gender and Sexual Equity Office, UFS Protection Services, the Free State Centre for Human Rights, the Student Representative Council (SRC), the Office for Student Leadership Development, Kovsie Innovation, GALA, the FFree State Centre for Human Rights, SRC Associations, the Office for Student Governance, Kovsie Innovate, Start-Up-Grind, EVC, EBL, Community Engagement, the Institutional Transformation Plan (ITP) Dialogues Office, Residence Dialogues, UFS Debating Society, Debate Afrika!, the Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS), and the Gateway Office. 

News Archive

Media: ANC can learn a lesson from Moshoeshoe
2006-05-20


27/05/2006 20:32 - (SA) 
ANC can learn a lesson from Moshoeshoe
ON 2004, the University of the Free State turned 100 years old. As part of its centenary celebrations, the idea of the Moshoeshoe Memorial Lecture was mooted as part of another idea: to promote the study of the meaning of Moshoeshoe.

This lecture comes at a critical point in South Africa's still-new democracy. There are indications that the value of public engagement that Moshoeshoe prized highly through his lipitso [community gatherings], and now also a prized feature in our democracy, may be under serious threat. It is for this reason that I would like to dedicate this lecture to all those in our country and elsewhere who daily or weekly, or however frequently, have had the courage to express their considered opinions on pressing matters facing our society. They may be columnists, editors, commentators, artists of all kinds, academics and writers of letters to the editor, non-violent protesters with their placards and cartoonists who put a mirror in front of our eyes.

There is a remarkable story of how Moshoeshoe dealt with Mzilikazi, the aggressor who attacked Thaba Bosiu and failed. So when Mzilikazi retreated from Thaba Bosiu with a bruised ego after failing to take over the mountain, Moshoeshoe, in an unexpected turn of events, sent him cattle to return home bruised but grateful for the generosity of a victorious target of his aggression. At least he would not starve along the way. It was a devastating act of magnanimity which signalled a phenomenal role change.

"If only you had asked," Moshoeshoe seemed to be saying, "I could have given you some cattle. Have them anyway."

It was impossible for Mzilikazi not to have felt ashamed. At the same time, he could still present himself to his people as one who was so feared that even in defeat he was given cattle. At any rate, he never returned.

I look at our situation in South Africa and find that the wisdom of Moshoeshoe's method produced one of the defining moments that led to South Africa's momentous transition to democracy. Part of Nelson Mandela's legacy is precisely this: what I have called counter-intuitive leadership and the immense possibilities it offers for re-imagining whole societies.

A number of events in the past 12 months have made me wonder whether we are faced with a new situation that may have arisen. An increasing number of highly intelligent, sensitive and highly committed South Africans across the class, racial and cultural spectrum confess to feeling uncertain and vulnerable as never before since 1994. When indomitable optimists confess to having a sense of things unhinging, the misery of anxiety spreads. It must have something to do with an accumulation of events that convey the sense of impending implosion. It is the sense that events are spiralling out of control and no one among the leadership of the country seems to have a handle on things.

I should mention the one event that has dominated the national scene continuously for many months now. It is, of course, the trying events around the recent trial and acquittal of Jacob Zuma. The aftermath continues to dominate the news and public discourse. What, really, have we learnt or are learning from it all? It is probably too early to tell. Yet the drama seems far from over, promising to keep us all without relief, and in a state of anguish. It seems poised to reveal more faultlines in our national life than answers and solutions.

We need a mechanism that will affirm the different positions of the contestants validating their honesty in a way that will give the public confidence that real solutions are possible. It is this kind of openness, which never comes easily, that leads to breakthrough solutions, of the kind Moshoeshoe's wisdom symbolises.

Who will take this courageous step? What is clear is that a complex democracy like South Africa's cannot survive a single authority. Only multiple authorities within a constitutional framework have a real chance. I want to press this matter further.

Could it be that part of the problem is that we are unable to deal with the notion of "opposition". We are horrified that any of us could become "the opposition". In reality, it is time we began to anticipate the arrival of a moment when there was no longer a single [overwhelmingly] dominant political force as is currently the case. Such is the course of change. The measure of the maturity of the current political environment will be in how it can create conditions that anticipate that moment rather than ones that seek to prevent it. This is the formidable challenge of a popular post-apartheid political movement.

Can it conceptually anticipate a future when it is no longer overwhelmingly in control, in the form in which it currently is and resist, counter-intuitively, the temptation to prevent such an eventuality? Successfully resisting such an option would enable its current vision and its ultimate legacy to our country to manifest itself in different articulations of itself, which then contend for social influence.

In this way, the vision never really dies, it simply evolves into higher, more complex forms of itself. If the resulting versions are what is called "the opposition" that should not be such a bad thing - unless we want to invent another name for it. The image of flying ants going off to start other similar settlements is not so inappropriate.

I do not wish to suggest that the nuptial flights of the alliance partners are about to occur: only that it is a mark of leadership foresight to anticipate them conceptually. Any political movement that has visions of itself as a perpetual entity should look at the compelling evidence of history. Few have survived those defining moments when they should have been more elastic, and that because they were not, did not live to see the next day.

I believe we may have reached a moment not fundamentally different from the sobering, yet uplifting and vision-making, nation-building realities that led to Kempton Park in the early 1990s. The difference between then and now is that the black majority is not facing white compatriots across the negotiating table. Rather, it is facing itself: perhaps really for the first time since 1994. It is not a time for repeating old platitudes. Could we apply to ourselves the same degree of inventiveness and rigorous negotiation we displayed up to the adoption or our Constitution?

Morena Moshoeshoe faced similarly formative challenges. He seems to have been a great listener. No problem was too insignificant that it could not be addressed. He seems to have networked actively across the spectrum of society. He seems to have kept a close eye on the world beyond Lesotho, forming strong friendships and alliances, weighing his options constantly. He seems to have had patience and forbearance. He had tons of data before him before he could propose the unexpected. He tells us across the years that moments of renewal demand no less.

  • This is an editied version of the inaugural Moshoeshoe Memorial Lecture presented by Univeristy of Cape Town vice-chancellor Professor Ndebele at the University of the Free State on Thursday. Perspectives on Leadership Challenges In South Africa

 

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