Leadership Conversations Revived At UWC
Once known as the “intellectual home of the left”, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) aimed to reinvigorate debate among young scholars when it hosted the inaugural Steve Biko, Mangaliso Sobukwe, O.R Tambo Leadership Conversations, an annual series of leadership talks, on Friday 19 July 2013.
“This marks the return of the glory days for UWC,” said renowned political analyst Dr Somadoda Fikeni, in his opening address. He was referring to the fact that UWC had been a place of vigorous political debate in the 1980s and that men like Biko, Tambo and Sobukwe inspired a lot of students at UWC and at other South African universities.
“As we pray for Madiba (Nelson Mandela who is still hospitalised), let us be reminded that men of his calibre, men of Biko’s calibre found their mission and chose not to betray it but to fulfill it. We (South Africa) are not where we were in 1994, but we are also not where we want to be,” he said, referring to the promise of a better life for all.
Fikeni said the choice of leaders after whom the series is named was rich in symbolism. He expressed that it showed how the South African democracy has matured over time. “Even when naming the streets, it is evident that many other influential leaders are being honoured, who are not necessarily from the ruling party”.
Speaking on what he termed the death of intellectual tradition in post-apartheid South Africa, Fikeni told the crowd of students and academics that the collapse of non-governmental organisations, the collapse of progressive media like Post Transvaal, Saturday Post and Sunday Post among others, as well as the migration of academics to the public and private sectors, was among the causes of death of intellectual tradition in South Africa.
“We can turn this around though. We must cultivate and nurture the intellectuals who sit in this crowd. We must reintroduce the social sciences,” said Fikeni.
Second speaker Dr Simphiwe Sesanti, charismatic and lively, began his talk by declaring all his clan names as a sign of his pride in being a Thwasa and a black intellectual. He told students and academics that it is time that African intellectual tradition returned to the universities, pointing to the fact that Biko, among the many intellectuals, had begun his journey as a student at university.
He spoke about the fundamental basics of the African culture and its relationship with governance, saying leaders of society today have abandoned these when engaging in leadership, intellectual discourse and governance.
“The philosophy of Mangaliso Sobukwe, Steve Biko and O.R Tambo was that of human respect before all else. That is the philosophy of the African. They led their respective movements along these lines and their legacies speak for themselves,” said Sesanti.
The Southern African National University Debating Championships (SANUDC) concluded with the Leadership Conversations Series and deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Development, Prof Lulu Tshiwula said that she was proud to have the Leadership Conversations series included within the discourse of the national debate.
“We want to encourage debate and dialogue here at UWC. Our debating team got to the semi-finals of the SANUDC just a week ago. These conversations will continue on a yearly basis and we will invite many more intellectual leaders so that debate does not fade here at UWC,” said Tshiwula.