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South African literary giant and Pan Africanist makes his transition

Mbuelelo Mzamane

Mbuelelo Mzamane

(GIN) — Friends of scholar and activist Mbuelelo Mzamane, first post-apartheid vice chancellor and rector at the University of Fort Hare, teacher of literature and African studies at universities in Southern Africa, West Africa, the U.S., Europe and Australia, are recalling the accomplishments of their colleague who passed suddenly at the early age of 66.

Mzamane was scheduled to chair a panel discussion at a conference next month on policies and practices relating to indigenous languages in education in the 20 years since democracy. The conference, organized by the Academic and Non-Fiction Authors’ Association of South Africa, will take place March 13-15 in the Birchwood Conference Center in East Rand.

A widely published author and editor, his works include “Bernard Magubane: My Life and Times” (2010) and “Words Gone Two Soon: A Tribute to Phaswane Mpe and K. Sello Duiker” (2006) among others. He was project leader and general editor of an initiative under the auspices of the National Department of Arts and Culture to produce an encyclopedia of South African arts, culture and heritage.

After leaving the University of Fort Hare, Mzamane was a vocal contributor to international debates on issues confronting African populations on the continent and in the diaspora of the Americas. Mzamane chaired and served on numerous boards, including: the African Arts Fund (affiliated to the U.N. Centre against Apartheid) and the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism (affiliated to the University of the Witwatersrand).

Mzamane was the director of the Centre for African Literary Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela called him a “visionary leader, (and) one of South Africa’s greatest intellectuals.” Schooled in Swaziland, Mzamane went on to obtain a master’s in English from the University of Botwana and a doctorate in English literature from the University of Sheffield (England).

Mzamane’s academic work was focused on issues confronting the populations of Africa in the post-colonial era.

Kassahun Checole, publisher of the N.J.-based Africa World Press and Red Sea Press described Mzamane as a continental Pan Africanist, a staunch anti-apartheid fighter and robust intellectual, in the front lines for the advancement of African literatures.”

“With his passing, the struggle for the advancement of African literatures in the global arena has suffered a major blow. He leaves a very solid, strong fellowship and exemplary role, and is represented by his children, many grandchildren, his wide range family of friends, comrades and fellow writers and activists.”

“May the ancestors receive you well, my friend,” declared publisher Checole. “You will be sorely missed.”

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