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Internationally acclaimed academic applauded on Africa Day
2011-06-02

 
 Prof. Ali Mazrui, an internationally acclaimed and renowned academic.

One of the world’s top academics was given a warm welcome in the rather cold Free State recently.

Prof. Ali Mazrui, an internationally acclaimed and renowned academic, visited us as part of our Africa Day celebrations as arranged by the Centre for Africa Studies. He delivered a keynote address, entitled ‘Pro-democracy uprisings in an African experience: from Sharpeville to Benghazi.’

A festive atmosphere and the sound of drums welcomed this intellectual giant as well as other delegates upon their arrival at the CR Swart Auditorium on our Bloemfontein Campus. Some of the delegates who attended the Africa Day Celebrations, included: Mr Tom Amolo, High Commissioner from the Republic of Kenya; Mr Dan Kgothule, MEC of Arts and Culture in the province; Prof. Jeff and Dr Carla Ramsdell, visitors from America; Dr Allan Boesak and Prof. Nicky Morgan, Vice-Rector: Operations.

Prof. Frederick Fourie, former Vice-Chancellor and Rector of our university, also attended the celebrations, as did some scholars from neighboring schools.

Welcoming Prof. Mazrui, Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of our university, quipped that he was relieved the world had not ended the previous weekend as was predicted, because he was looking forward to listening to such a renowned intellectual.

Prof. Lucius Botes, Dean of Humanities, followed Prof. Jansen at the podium. He said the ability to go from following a bridging course to being one of the top 100 intellectuals in the world, indeed distinguishes Prof. Mazrui as an exceptional academic. This intellectual is, among others, an Albert Luthuli Professor at the University of Jos, Nigeria and Andrew D. Professor Emeritus and Senior Scholar in Africana Studies at Cornell University.

In his introduction, Prof. Mazrui said he feels honored and flattered by this opportunity. He proceeded by referring to the history of Africa Day and added that he would rather prefer an Africa Week to an Africa Day to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to celebrate the continent.

He sang the praises of South Africa, as almost every other African country which attained liberation from European colonial rule in the 20th century, has been unable to maintain its democratic order beyond its first decade of independence.

“The Republic of South Africa, on the other hand, liberated Nelson Mandela in 1990, held its first democratic election in 1994, and already has its third president. Nearly two decades after Apartheid, South Africa has not outlawed opposition parties, or experienced a military coup, or permitted the Head of State to govern the country as a dictator.”

In his speech he compared the uprisings in Sharpeville during 1960 and Soweto during 1976 with the more recent pro-democracy uprisings in North Africa, based on the role that weapons and the lack thereof, as well as the youth and women played in the respective cases.

He concluded by saying the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have already resulted in ousting dictators who had been entrenched in power for decades, adding that in Libya a third dictator’s future is on the line. “Never in the history of the Arabs have there been so many popular uprisings which seem to be inspired neither by Islam nor by anti-imperialism, but in the quest for liberal reforms. Half a century earlier in Sharpeville and Soweto, South Africans experienced their own political awakening.”

Prof. Kwandiwe Kondlo, Director of the Centre for Africa Studies, closed the event with a word of thanks to the American academic and his wife, guests and attendees. He said discussions prior to the event revealed that more research has to be done regarding gender issues on the continent.

Prof. Mazrui also participated in conversations at the institute and a media briefing which was hosted earlier the day.

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