Post-apartheid South Africa has many myths in different spheres of public life. The sphere of the battle of ideas has its fair share of such mythology. Since 1994, concepts such as South African exceptionalism, rainbow nation, lost generation, post-colony, white genocide, white fears and recently, born frees and many others have emerged across the political and social spectrum.
As a working definition, concepts are theoretical constructs drawn from reality, concretely or imaginatively but always attempting to grapple with dynamics of human life or nature. Concepts have at least two uses. They describe a phenomenon and they inspire action. In the socio-political arena, they have the power to mobilise or demobilise in whatever direction depending on the intentions of the user or propagator.
Today I’m concerned with the false concept of born frees. The concept of born frees is one of the biggest myths in post-apartheid South Africa. It is said that the children born in 1994 and after, are born frees. Although nobody has ever defined what born free means, one can reasonably deduct that the so-called concept refers to the coincidence of being born in a free South Africa.
Scourge of racism haunts Africa's diaspora
By Mcebisi Ndletyana
More than a century after its formation, the Pan African Movement was finally hosted here in South Africa on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week. This was the eighth Pan African Congress gathering since its formation in 1900 in London and the third on African soil. Formed at the instigation of a Trinidad lawyer, Henry Sylvester Williams, Pan Africanism is an international movement of peoples of African descent spread throughout the world.
America’s foremost sociologist and a pioneer of Pan Africanism, WEB du Bois, explained the raison d’etre of Pan Africanism at its inaugural meeting: “The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the colour line, the question as to how far differences of race – which show themselves chiefly in the colour of the skin and the texture of the hair – will hereafter be made the basis of denying to over half the world the right of sharing to their utmost ability the opportunities and privileges of modern civilisation.” The Pan African Movement was thus formed to mobilise all peoples of African descent against the scourge of racism throughout the world and secure them equal treatment.
For close to 50 years of its early existence, however, the Pan African Movement was largely preoccupied with the plight of the African diaspora. This was a reflection of the dominance of the diaspora. Du Bois singularly dominated the movement until the 1950s, organising all of its first five congresses.
Test of political leadership will start this defining year
By Mcebisi Ndletyana
And so we greet the new year. With it comes the potential for new beginnings. This is what a new dawn promises, a fresh start. We get to feel that we can imagine things completely afresh. Social reality, however, hardly lends itself to neat compartments. Today is as much a continuation of yesterday, as it is the start of a different tomorrow. Social reality is a continuum. That’s not to say the new year will not produce surprises. We’ll continue to be surprised – that’s the inevitability of life. Most of what we’ll encounter as the year progresses, however, will be answers to questions posed by events of last year and 2012. Some chapters will come to a close, while new ones will start. Most of these will revolve around the looming fifth national election in this 20th year of our democratic order.
Before the end of this first month, we should have an indication of how the stand-off between the government and the office of the public protector will be resolved. It’s a contest of credibility. The government has pitted itself against Public Protector Thuli Madonsela by releasing its own findings on the obscene expenditure on the Nkandla presidential compound. The findings exonerate the president and blame officials.
Our inability to save is an obstacle to SA’s development
By Catherine Kannemeyer
With Christmas gone and the new year approaching and bonuses paid to many workers, retailers are once again smiling all the way to the bank. And while consumers may spend with abandon, once the festive season is over, they are likely to struggle to comprehend how to make it through January, much less actually purchase essentials, equip school children for a new year, and put aside money as a precaution for tough times.
And as is the case every year, newspapers have dedicated much space to cautioning consumers against over-spending, and encouraging prudence and savings. Much of this is likely to fall on deaf ears. Much rhetoric abounds about the “need to save”, and certainly, responsible financial behaviour is a skill to foster, but this rhetoric falls short of acknowledging the limited capacity to meet daily needs, much less saving in situations of dire poverty.
Novel thoughts on how to structure a society’s savings and insurance frameworks are frequently met with opposition based on little more than favouring what already exists because it is known. The level of savings forms part of the process of nation formation and social cohesion because its key function – internally funded economic growth – is what contributes to the development of a more prosperous society. South Africa’s present culture of low savings must be seen as a critical obstacle to the country’s development, and the reasons underpinning this impediment to growth need to be scrutinised.
Pan Africans meet in SA
By Mcebisi Ndletyana
More than a century after its formation, the Pan African movement was finally hosted here in South Africa last week.
This was the eighth Pan African congress since its formation in 1900 in London, and the third on African soil.
Formed at the instigation of a Trinidad lawyer, Henry Sylvester Williams, Pan Africanism is an international movement of the peoples of African descent spread throughout the world.
America’s foremost sociologist and a pioneer of Pan Africanism, WEB du Bois, explained the raison de’tre of Pan Africanism at its inaugural meeting: “…The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the colour-line, the question as to how far differences of race – which show themselves chiefly in the colour of the skin and the texture of the hair – will hereafter be made the basis of denying to over half the world the right of sharing to their utmost ability the opportunities and privileges of modern civilisation”.
The Pan African movement was thus formed to mobilise all peoples of African descent against the scourge of racism throughout the world and secure them equal treatment.
For close to 50 years of its early existence, however, it was largely preoccupied with the plight of the African diaspora. This was a reflection of the dominance of the diaspora.
Du Bois singularly dominated the movement until the 1950s, organising all of its first five congresses.
To read full article click here.Originally published in The Daily Dispatch on January 23, 2014
- MISTRA Board Member, Dr Tanya Abrahamse speaks on “How scientists can make their work relevant for policy?” at the Inaugural meeting of the United Nation's Scientific Advisory Board in Berlin.
- Dr Tanya Abrahamse, MISTRA Board Member and Chief Executive Officer of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, is one of twenty-six eminent scientists, representing natural, social and human sciences and engineering who have been appointed to a Scientific Advisory Board, announced by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.
- The new Board will provide advice on science, technology and innovation (STI) for sustainable development to the UN Secretary-General and to Executive Heads of UN organizations. UNESCO will host the Secretariat for the Board.
- The fields covered by the Board range from the basic sciences, through engineering and technology, social sciences and humanities, ethics, health, economic, behavioral, and agricultural sciences, in addition to the environmental sciences.
- The board will aim to ensure that up-to-date and rigorous science is appropriately reflected in high-level policy discussions within the UN system, offering recommendations on priorities related to science for sustainable development that should be supported or encouraged; providing advice on up-to-date scientific issues relevant to sustainable development; identifying knowledge gaps that could be addressed outside the UN system by either national or international research programs; identifying specific needs that could be addressed by on-going assessments; and advising on issues related to the public visibility and understanding of science.
- Watch interview
- MISTRA and the Green Fund (DBSA)
- MISTRA is partnering with the Green Fund of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) to implement one of its key priority research projects (PRP) – Earth, Wind and Fire: Unpacking the political, economic and security implications of discourse on the Green Economy. Last year, DBSA invited interested parties to submit proposals for research and policy development projects on themes that would advance green economy policy objectives in South Africa and help strengthen the science- policy interface in the green economy sector.
- The team of researchers working on this project includes experts from institutions such as the World Wild Fund (WWF) - South Africa, United Nations University (UNU) – MERIT – The Netherlands, The University of New South Wales - Australia and the University of Johannesburg.
- MISTRA’s research is organised into three overarching research aims and objectives:
- (i) Co-evolutionary role of governments, civil society and industries
- The evolution of the discourse on global warming, the courses of action and negotiation that evolved will be studied, including an understanding of how these have been articulated by local governments, businesses and civil society. This will also look at the major debates around South African labour issues (and other major economic debates) and how they align with the climate change discourse and how that is mediated by the major civil society blocs.
- (ii) Transition to a Low Carbon Economy
- The innovation dynamics in the transition to a low carbon economy will be explored by examining the possible development of low carbon transportation technologies such as the bus rapid transit (BRT) system. Through this analysis our understanding of the processes involved in the formation and uptake of sustainable technologies is improved, and we can thereby identify the key associated challenges for policy makers that are managing the transformation process.
- (iii) Regional Integration: Exploring Optimal Energy Strategies.
- This will aim to understand and remove barriers to market integration at the regional level (SADC). There is compelling evidence from different countries in Southern Africa and elsewhere showing that renewable energy systems, both small and large-scale, are part of the energy solution of the continent. Policy makers need to send strong signals to all development partners of their commitment to the development of renewable energy sources as part of the process of developing and providing energy access to countries in the region.
- MISTRA ranked as one of Top 10 Best New Think Tanks Globally
- The Mapungubwe Institute is proud to announce that it has been ranked as one of the top ten Best New Think Tanks globally, according to the 2013 Global Go-To Think Tanks Report. The Global Go-To Think Tank Index (GGTTI) produced by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania (TTCSP) is an annual Index that recognizes the critical contributions made by think tanks globally.
- Now in its seventh year, the GGTTI began as a response to requests to the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania (TTCSP) from scholars, donors, government officials, and journalists to produce regional and international ranking of the world’s leading think tanks.
- As the Mapungubwe Institute enters its 4th year of operation, its inclusion as one of the world’s top ten Best New Think Tanks is an acknowledgement that MISTRA is on track to achieving its ambition to providing long-term strategic thinking to enhance South Africa’s development.
- During the past 15 months MISTRA has released comprehensive research reports on The Rise and Decline of the Mapungubwe Civilisation, The Concept and Application of Transdisciplinarity, The Philosophy, Art and Science of Competitive Football, Poverty, Inequality and Patronage, The Evolution of the South African State, and The Use and Displacement of Strategic Minerals. MISTRA is working with various stakeholders to ensure the operationalisation of the recommendations. Two reports on the culture of savings in South Africa, and on nation-formation and social cohesion are due for release this year. This is besides MISTRA facilitative role among various sectors of society, public lectures and roundtables.
- This year will see MISTRA embark on a new tranche of research projects that focus on, among others: the changing economic balances in Africa, the philosophy of Chinese civilization, the role of arts in development planning, basic education and the calling of teaching, the pedagogy of mathematics, the history of South African innovations, and the implications of discourses of the green economy.
- This ranking of MISTRA as one of the world’s best new think tanks is confirmation that the MISTRA proposition is a unique and necessary addition to the intellectual landscape in South Africa and further afield.
- MISTRA would like to thank our partners – researchers, donors and others – for their continued support, without which the Institute would not have made these strides.