College of Graduate Studies

Authoritarian regimes strengthened by military structures limit the possibilities of democratic alternatives

Prof Wendy Isaacs-Martin (Acting Head of Department: Archie Mafeje Research Institute), Prof Michael Neocosmos (Rhodes University), Prof Crain Soudien (CEO: Human Sciences Research Council), Sandile Swana (Nephew of Prof Archie Mafeje, representing the Mafeje family), Prof Brian Raftopoulos (University of the Free State), Prof Siphamandla Zondi (University of Pretoria) and Prof Jimi Adesina (College of Graduate Studies, Unisa)

The annual Archie Mafeje Memorial Lecture, entitled "State and politics in Zimbabwe: Lessons for post-settler colonial politics in Southern Africa", took place on 28 March 2019 to mark the 12th year since the passing of Prof Archibald Monwabisi Mafeje.

Hosted by Unisa’s Archie Mafeje Research Institute (AMRI) in collaboration with the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) in the Human Sciences Research Council (HRSC), the lecture continues to commemorate the academic and intellectual contribution to the African continent of the late Archie Mafeje, to perpetuate his legacy.

Delivering his memorial address, Prof Brian Raftopoulos, leading Zimbabwean scholar and researcher at the University of the Free State (UFS), said the role of the military in South African politics is not the same as in Zimbabwe. In his comparison, he further reiterated that the role of the military in the liberation of the two states was different. Raftopoulos believes that Zimbabwe is now seeing politics in a changed way, following the removal of former president Robert Mugabe and recent violence-free elections.

In November 2017, Mugabe was removed by the military and ruling party that sustained his authoritarian politics for decades. It was a dramatic change in the ruling party, a culmination of struggles and internal battles resulting in the domination of one faction of the party over another. It was about who controls the state, Raftopoulos said.

The Archie Mafeje Memorial Lecture commemorates the academic and intellectual contribution of the late Prof Archibald Monwabisi Mafeje, one of the most gifted social science researchers and scholars to emerge in Africa in the last century. Mafeje was a towering intellectual who contributed to the contemporary African and global social research terrain. This lecture seeks to perpetuate Mafeje’s legacy of critical and engaged scholarship in support of progressive agendas of social transformation in the developing world.

Prof Brian Raftopoulos (UFS) delivered the 2019 Archie Mafeje Memorial Lecture on 28 March 2019.

His presentation reflected on democratic politics in Zimbabwe and changing forms of military interventions in global politics; however, his focus was on liberation movements facing growing challenges from opposition parties and a long history of violent internal battles. There is much more central power in the African National Congress (ANC) than in Zimbabwe African National Union—Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF), said Raftopoulos. He stated key differences and comparisons around the issue of nationalism and citizenship as questioned from the past in the Southern African region. In addition, he spoke about the increase of opposition parties contesting their own claim on liberation histories, divisions and factions within dominant parties. Raftopoulos mentioned that authoritarian regimes in Africa strengthened by military structures limit the possibilities of democratic alternatives.

In her welcome remarks, Prof Wendy Isaacs-Martin, Acting Head of AMRI, said the lecture has been an auspicious occasion since 2012 and every year it reflects the contribution made to the academic environment, both in the African context generally, and in South Africa specifically. Isaacs-Martin described Archie Mafeje’s contribution as important in setting the Pan-Africanist approach to knowledge creation and production. "We are grounded in specific domestic, national, and continental frameworks of knowledge production and our aim is to influence and inform progressive social and political transformation in Africa," she said.

Time is wasted in incoherent discussions and abuse of resources

Representing the family, Sandile Swana thanked the university for consistently making meaningful inputs and doing great work to recover and propagate Mafeje’s legacy. He further spoke against the country’s corruption and maladministration. "We have no coherent plan that is implemented diligently to create economic independence in South Africa, especially for the black majority. The state-owned companies like Eskom could have been used to create innovation and new skills to increase capacity for industrialisation using resources at hand. But time is wasted in incoherent discussions and abuse of resources," he said.

"We do need a coherent post-colonial development philosophy and a comprehensive moral renewal that focuses our energy, time, resources on superior performance within the framework of frugality," Swana recommended.

This event brought together scholars of diverse academic pursuits but passionate about Archie Mafeje to discuss political issues of his interest, some of whom included Unisa’s Prof Jimi Adesina from the College of Graduate Studies, Rhodes University Prof Michael Neocosmos, Prof Cheryl Hendricks from AISA and Prof Siphamandla Zondi from the University of Pretoria.

* By Lesego Ravhudzulo, Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2019/04/02