The Archie Mafeje memorial lecture

On 28 March 2012 AISA hosted a series of Archie Mafeje Memorial Lectures to commemorate one of Africa’s most distinguished Pan-African scholars, Professor Archibald Monwabisi Mafeje at UNISA. Professor Mafeje was wellknown the world over for his academic and intellectual achievements as reflected through his wealth of publications and conference papers. The memorial lecture was addressed by the Honorable Minister of Science and Technology, Mrs Naledi Pandor who also praised the late Mafeje for his contribution towards education globally.

Professor Adebayo Olukoshi, Director at the United Nations African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP) in Senegal was to have presented a paper on Progressive Pan-Africanism: Archie Mafeje’s Legacy and the Quest for a Successor Generation of Intellectual Leaders, but was unable to attend. The drive for the retrieval and reconstruction of the African identity and personality, and the hope of the re-entry of Africa into the community of nations as an independent and equal player has always been at the heart of the Pan-African quest, both historical and more contemporaneous. It originated from the wholesale recasting of the history of Africa in negative terms which gave justification to the European slave trade across the Atlantic, and the dehumanising conditions of which people captured from Africa for enslavement in the so-called ‘New world’, was justified.

It was within the broad historical framework of a Pan-African ideal full of promise and possibilities, but stymied by the enduring legacies of the same historical past it emerged from to correct and overcome, that Archie Mafeje’s intellectual contribution was fashioned. For Mafeje, keeping the Pan-African ideal alive and imbuing it with a permanent progressive content was the key responsibility of the African scholar. Translating his intellectual commitments and political beliefs into action also saw Mafeje playing multiple roles as a patient field researcher, critic, polemicist, teacher, mentor, and institution-builder during his life. In all of the institutions in which he was active (CODESRIA, OSSREA, AAPS, and SAPES), he left imprints that often saw him at the centre of many debates. One of the debates in which he participated and which triggered the responses of others was the one that involved him dueling with Ali Mazrui. It was a debate that began with a review by Mazrui of a conflict and crisisridden Africa in the post-Cold War period.

Looking closely at the contemporary context, we find ourselves confronted with multiple challenges that point to direct and indirect attacks on the self-reliance, independence, unity, and sovereignty of African countries. Just over five decades after independence, the independence of African countries appears to be under a much greater threat than ever before. It is a matter to be regretted, that in the face of the new onslaught against African independence and sovereignty, there are few Archie Mafeje’s available to take on the intellectual proponents of the neo-imperial agenda in a frontal manner.

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