The Durban University of Technology (DUT) through the Faculty of Arts and Design in association with the South African Education Research Association (SAERA) hosted the annual Nelson Mandela Education Legacy Lecture at the Hotel School: Conference Centre, Riston Campus in Durban on Wednesday, 31 July 2019.
SEARA Secretary Professor Labby Ramrathan gave an overview and background on this annual lecture, adding that it is hosted as a pre-cursor to their annual Education Conference, which will also be hosted by DUT from 22 to 25 October 2019 in Durban.
“The Nelson Mandela Legacy Lecture chooses a compelling speaker to address the following questions: What does Nelson Mandela mean for the great task of education? What one might take away from a study of his writing, speeches and actions? Is there a Mandela approach to Education?” he said.
Indeed, the guest speaker Professor Relebohile Moletsane did address these questions through her captivating paper titled: Rethinking Legacies in the Midst of the War on Women’s Bodies: A Feminist ‘Ghost Dance’ with Mandela.
Prof Moletsane is an accomplished scholar and she is currently the JL Dube Chair in Rural Education in the School of Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
She spoke broadly about Mandela’s ‘complex legacy’ including his commitment to democracy, forgiveness and reconciliation. She also touched on Mandela the feminist? And lately the voices of Mandela the sell-out?
“Today I will leave you to ponder the veracity or merits of these claims. My paper focuses on the legacy and its utility for higher education and our efforts to decolonise, and in particular, to infuse gender and feminist analyses in our efforts to do so,” she remarked.
She also highlighted Mandela’s silence during one of the significant moments in our country, when our former president, Jacob Zuma was facing rape charges in 2006. She used the ‘personal is political’ or ‘private is political’ slogan often credited to feminist writer Carol Henisch to amplify her argument.
“Notwithstanding all the virtues we know about, a much more complex picture emerges in reflecting on Mandela’s legacy beyond the socio-political miracle of 1994. So while his contribution to our freedom and democracy is largely undisputed, if we, as critical scholars and feminists, believe that the personal is political, the picture becomes rather complex and murky,” she argues.
“My analysis today is not about the merits of the rape case against our former president. Rather, I am interested in the pedagogical meaning and possibility of Mandela’s peculiar silence during the trial and its aftermath, a moment in the history of our young democracy when we really needed good leadership. Informed by my beliefs that when he was silent, it was not because he was afraid or wanted to tow the party line, I ask myself the question: What did Mandela’s silence around a very pertinent issue and event in our country, particularly the one that pertains to gender inequality and the raging gender violence, a topic he had spoken out against many times before, mean to South Africa? What were the social and political implications of his silence?” she added.
She also further unpacked the different connotations of silence in relation to Mandela in reference to this particular instance.
“To keep Mandela’s legacy alive, and to address its blindspots, including silencing, silences and marginalisation in University spaces in particular, we might ask: How are gender feminism positioned, if at all, within the decolonisation project, particularly in the current context of extreme gender-based violence, including sexual violence and femicide on University campuses? To what extent do women’s experiences inform debates and programming in relation to teaching and community engagement?” she stressed.
Faculty of Arts and Design Executive Dean, Dr Rene Smith thanked Prof Moletsane for her thought provoking lecture, and called for those in position of authority within universities to advocate for spaces were gender and feminist issues are addressed.
Pictured: Some of the speakers and guests who attended the annual Nelson Mandela Education Legacy Lecture.