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In our last issue we had committed to dedicate the month of May, which is Africa Month, to reflections on the strides and challenges encountered in driving Africa’s Agenda 2063. This issue will in the context of Mandela University looking back and forwards on the extent to which we have successfully moulded a leadership that is committed to and capable of imagining and driving Africa’s development programme.

  Successful development elsewhere in the world has largely been driven and influenced by a number of factors, especially in a postcolonial state and world.  Some of these factors are (a) a thriving democracy; (b) focused and ethical leadership; (c) vibrant and active citizenry; (d) an excellent education system; and (e) rapid innovation and technological development. All these are made possible by foresighted and decisive leadership.

In my view, the continent has adequate plans aimed at its renewal and has built foundational institutional capabilities to jumpstart its development programme.  What is probably inadequate is unity in action - programmatic and pragmatic commitment to realise the development programme of Africa. The absence of implementation or its inadequacy can be attributed to a lack of focused leadership. Leadership in this context as ability to harness, mould, nurture and continually renew capabilities of others towards a shared outlook of the future. Leadership of the continent does not only refer to elected political leadership but includes civil society, business, labour and the broader citizenry and is not leadership as positions or titles, but collective leadership that is bound and works as one towards a common destiny – the Africa that we want.

In the context of Nelson Mandela University as a dynamic African University whose ambition is to be recognised for its leadership in producing cutting edge knowledge for a sustainable future, I think building on the current initiatives we need:

  • Impactful activism that leads to social justice and sustainability: This is possible if we are advanced in understanding a dialectical link between strategy and tactics and between objective and subjective factors.  But this type of a deep analysis is possible if we successfully cultivate authentic, ideational, ethical, truly democratic leadership that understands that popular struggles are people centred and people driven and that just struggles are rooted amongst and sustained by the people. 
  • Active solidarity and progressive patriotism: Place the gender transformation agenda at the core of our transformation agenda. Collectively lead women’s struggles and understand women’s liberation in its totality. Build a movement against gender based violence and defeat it in all its manifestations.
  • To tirelessly work for and imbibe a sense of community amongst our students and the African youth: Understand the community in its broad African sense. Deepen and clarify our collective understanding of a community in an African sense.
  • To cultivate a leadership that continually learns; is knowledgeable and leads with ideas: Buttress a leadership that understands theory as a social construct and not as dogma. We need a leadership that is imbued with adaptive expertise and truly practice agile learning.
  • To cultivate a leadership that is bound by and advances a progressive value system:  The need for pursuit of excellence and intellectual rigour and the decision making models that are predicated on the balance of evidence and thoroughly backed up by knowledge, should be an abiding philosophy of the praxis of leadership. It is these kinds of interventions that need to be deepened and scaled as we sharpen and mature our democracy.

In the context of the University we need to catalyse an excellent and transformative student life that is buttressed on the construct of student centredness. Student centredness simply means placing the students at the heart of the design, implementation and review of programmes aimed at creating an enduring transformative experience for them during and post university life.

At the core of taking the vision forward would be evidence-based interventions, activation of students as agents of their own development and engagement in community work as part of preparing them for their role in driving Africa’s development agenda.

Posted on 06 May 2019 15:13:53

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This platform serves as a reflective, discursive and connecting space between myself and the entire student community of our beloved university. Through this platform, we converse with our students and broader stakeholders on all matters of student life, wellbeing and development at Mandela University.

Dr Bernard Sebake, Acting Dean of Students