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Producing thoughtful African stars

The Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute (TMALI) recently held its 2019 certificate ceremony to celebrate 212 students who completed their programmes.

Among the attendees were Unisa Chancellor, Dr Thabo Mbeki; Acting Vice-Principal of Teaching, Learning, Community Engagement and Student Support, Prof Veronica Mckay; and the CEO of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, Mr Max Boqwana.

In welcoming students and guests, McKay spoke briefly about the exciting future of TMALI, its commendable contribution to the university’s research outputs, and the role TMALI plays as a model of Africanisation and decolonisation of knowledge in the university and in producing the next generation of African leaders.

Award-winning essayist and bestselling author, Malaika wa Azania

Award-winning essayist and bestselling author, Malaika wa Azania, presented the keynote address to the newly certificated students and the audience. "What is it that we are doing, those of us who claim to believe in the importance of unity, in the vision of the African Renaissance, to re-write this narrative that seeks to suggest that our own brothers and sisters are foreigners and that this country is not theirs to call home? What is it that we are doing, as a group of young people who have internalised the works of President Thabo Mbeki, Frantz Fanon, Prof Ali Mazrui, Dr Babalwa Magoqwana and Dr Siphokazi Magadla, works that speak to the ways in which colonialism is de-civilising and dehumanising, to contest the 'thingifying' process that defines the language of anti-Africanness in our country?" asked Malaika.

She further quoted Prof Mashupye Maserumule, who contends "that the university as a social institution gives us an opportunity to re-create society; it is a space where we can re-create the society that we inherited, by first and foremost re-imagining ourselves into existence."

In closing, Malaika reminded students that TMALI has done its part in equipping them with the necessary theory to reconstruct the "nothingness" that Fanon spoke about and to fill the empty void that sits where a sense of true humanity ought to be. Moreover, she challenged them to remember that what they do with this void will determine whether this institution and this country, will become a home for all Africans.

Speaking on behalf of the TMALI students, Simo Zulu remarked: "We have learnt among others that education and dialogue are important for us to understand each other better, to understand our attendant challenges better and for us to know how we as Africans respond to these challenges that we face. Having participated in TMALI courses, we also have a better understanding that these challenges that we face as Africans could and can be solved if we work together with the unity of purpose and as active agents of change."

In her remarks, the Acting Head of TMALI, Dr Edith Phaswana, said that 2019 has been an eventful year for TMALI and its partners characterised by change, growth and new exciting developments. The year also marks TMALI’s 10th-year anniversary. She further argued that the "African sky will be too dark with only one African star, we need many more stars, and TMALI is in the business of creating and adding more African stars". She emphasised that there is a unique TMALI spirit and experience that is expected from every student who has passed through our doors.

"We expect our students to be locally grounded and globally relevant. How you conduct yourself in society should be testimony enough that you have passed through the doors of TMALI and are grounded in the values as professed and lived by our patron who is essentially an embodiment of African renaissance, thought leadership and generosity! We hope that throughout the course we were able to inculcate the spirit of activism in you! Students should no longer be concerned of their own little countries but see themselves as residents of the entire continent and the world, you need to be concerned about issues affecting the human race in every corner of the world," said Phaswana.

Unisa Chancellor, Dr Thabo Mbeki

These new cohort of students will join a larger group of TMALI alumni who occassionally represent the institution as ambassadors in high-level and decision-making bodies on the continent.

The Chancellor closed the ceremony by congratulating students and encouraging the audience to do whatever is necessary to define and tell the story of who they are as Africans and not leave this task to others.

* By Tshepo Neito, Marketing and Communication Specialist, Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute

Publish date: 2019/11/12