Young Intellectual demanding their space

Category: Policies


Presented by: Zola Knowledge Saphetha
Student Governance Officer
University of KwaZulu-Natal

Introductory Notes

In order to facilitate and accelerate necessary strategic focus needed and coupled with the production of tangible outputs we need to establish a common and consensual contextualization on the role and purpose of higher education and its impact to the society in general. More importantly the context in which we locate our participation (universities) in the broader transformation processes of the African Continent in general and our country in particular. This paper will examine the historical and present role of the young intellectuals in the development of our country and continent in general. Paying a particular attention on the historical and future role of the institution of higher learning. In doing so we also need to debate and understand a new mandate for our continent, which ensures the development of the capital centre for young intellectuals as critical to transformation.

Generally, a correct contextualisation is to regard the role and purpose of higher education is to regard as one that should be assessed in terms of its relations to the political economy, development, ideological hegemony, learning, teaching and research. While the role and purpose of the university cannot be restricted nor influenced by these factors alone, political economy remains a primary and dominant if the role and purpose of higher education is to be asserted and its relevance thereof.

Political economy briefly refers to the way in which both economic and human resource are produced and also distributed in society. Therefore education institutions such as universities have an explicit role of educating intellectual who offer their know-how (skills) in the political, social, cultural and economical structures of the society. Their knowledge and skills are utilised to maintain, defend, develop and also change the status quo. As correctly asserted by the Italian Leftist: Antonio Gramsci, ‘that every class in society creates a strata of intellectuals, which gives it ideological supremacy over oppressed social classes’.

Therefore institutions such as universities fulfils their role by producing engineers, scientists, doctors, lawyers, economist and politicians who occupies strategic positions in the political economy in order to ensure its survival. However, it is important to note that institutions of learning can, at some stage, be used by the oppressed classes’ ands strata to popularise their views. Learning institutions are therefore not above class struggles, but remaining an integral part of ideological contestation.

Earlier on, in South Africa, the progressive forces developed a thesis “People’s Power for People’s Education” as basis to challenge the ruling class hegemony. Therefore in an endeavour to build the African Scholarship University we should interrogate the meaning of this thesis and use the platform created for us as a result of this merger – transformation of higher education. In my view, the African Scholarship University we seek to build should produce a new brand of leadership that is societal orientated and critical of the Continental Developments in particular and the world in general. Therefore it is a correct task of this university to be a centre of organic intellectuals by mentoring current students and young staff members in a more conscious way so that they can play a critical role in the political economy and ensuring clear succession plan towards its development.

Education is one of the most crucial vehicles in shaping the broader societal values. It is always a carrier of particular messages, both explicitly and implicitly. For these reasons education is not neutral, and it is important to understand this truism as a basis for approaching the tasks at hand. In the South African context, like in many other post colonial societies, it carriers and imparts particular racial, gender and class messages.

The current process of curriculum transformation provides unique opportunity to combat the ideologies of racial inequalities and class exploitation. Therefore, we must ensure that students are realising the practical meaning and effects of these ideologies and be taught values of the society we seek to build. The task for us is to lead national debates on the question of values and ideology in education system. Part of this should be to seek to advance values of solidarity, equality and building of an economic system that benefits the overwhelming majority of our people. Let us, in line with our commitment, use this process of curriculum change as a platform to open debates in this African Scholarship university we seek to build on the evil of racism and of gender inequality. Therefore one of key challenges for us is to take an active interest and focus in shaping the new curriculum in a manner that advances the kind of values we seek to promote.

This brief synopsis as mentioned above on the role and purpose of institutions of higher learning emphasizes the fact that young intellectuals are eagerly and desperately demanding their rightful space in the society.


This paper is aimed at contributing to the current discourse on the youth participation in the country. The role of the youth especially at political level has lopsided and faded to an acceptable level. The diminishing role of young people in politics can be attributed to many factors, which we want to explore and investigate in this paper. This has shown concern amongst politicians and general population including intellectuals and academics. Due to the historical role which youth have played and the psychological sequelae of this, serious questions have arisen concerning the ability of youth to play a constructive role in the society – now and in the future.

Reflection on the role of young people in Social Reconstruction and Development

The fundamental change in our country’s politics came by the Nationalist Party adoption of apartheid as a system to govern the society at the time. This meant that whites would live separately from Africans and Blacks in general and through their laws that were put in place by the apartheid government restricted movement of blacks and denied them human rights which were enshrined in the Declaration of Human Right of the United Nation of 1948. Many formations were banned and many people were also arrested for not having passes. It further created homeland system as buffer zones and this made South African temporary sojourners in their country of birth by settlers. It became clear that a coherent and systematic approach to deal with the situation created by Malan and his Party was more than necessary.

The apartheid state was met with a vigorous response from the young lions in the likes of Sisulu, Tambo, Mandela, Nokwe etc. They organised campaigns such as defiance campaigns, anti-pass law and a major rally which concluded the demands of the people through the adoption of Freedom Charter in the Congress of the People in 1955. Their struggle was met with police brutality and subsequently the banning of the liberation movement in 1960 after the killing of 69 people in Sharpville.

The banning of political formations and incarceration of the leadership youth became peripheral to politics and political organisations as Freeman argues that ‘partly as result of this and partly as a result of massive repressive powers used by the state, youth as a group did little as group to change their oppressed position in the society’ 1993). There was a lull in the political arena in South Africa and it was in the 70s things started to shape up as both workers and youth/students openly started to challenge the state.

According to Seekings ‘it was only in the aftermath of the Soweto uprising of 1976/7 and particularly in the years 1980/2 that the youth once again came to constitute a distinct sector of the political mobilisations’. The youth after the long political oppression started to dominate the politics again like 40s and the 50s as Freeman also echoing this views that ‘the events of June 1976 were started by and dominated by youth’. The struggle against the language imposed to the African majority was also combined with the struggle against the decline and deterioration of the socio-economic standards of blacks. The rising of unemployment, declining of services at local level with prices, high levels of crimes and the general social disintegration which was prevalent in many of the African communities.

As expected the response by the apartheid government was brutality that was never witnessed before. Many young people fled the country killed and maimed, while others banned and restricted to their areas and the death of one prominent student leader Steve Biko sparked controversy. This regime response gave more membership to the liberation movement and its credibility globally.

The end of the 70s saw the diminishing role again of youth in politics and it was as if the regime has succeeded to quell and crush the resistance and that was a big mistake. A new brand of young people emerged in the 80s with clear aim and strategy and also with commitment to freedom or death, victory is certain. This youth engaged themselves in series of discussions and the theoretical debates about the path of the struggle they are engaged in. They involved masses of our people and build a base for momentum and sustainability of the struggle. They established peoples’ power as they recognised that without the participation of the masses in general they will not succeed like the youth of the 70s specifically. They did not only take part as participants they were initiators and leaders of those campaigns. According to Starker in Freeman: ‘they (the youth) had a sense of power and a vision for the future’. They saw themselves as leading the older generation to freedom.

Internationally, the young people have been instrumental in the socio-economic and political reconstitution of their societies. In parts of the world youth especially students mainly from the institutions of higher learning have been leading revolutions against the dictators, despots and military juntas. They were also challenging the undemocratic nature of their governments. Even though they are sectoral sometimes in their demand like students of Mexico against Zedillo who wanted to cut the student grants and introduced fees in universities. However the workers and peasants joined in support of students and that led to the broadening of demands that of economic and social reforms. In Indonesia young people with the support of workers ousted Suharto. In Peru too the Fijumuru government met students, workers and peasants including the poor protesting against the state and socio-economic conditions that continues to hit hard at ordinary masses. Students in Iran were attacked by Muslims fundamentalists, as they demanded reforms and the liberalisation of the theoretical state. In China also it was the youth who demanded the reforms in political system and whether they were progressive or reactionary that is immaterial.

In part of Africa students/youth have been instrumental in highlighting the plight of the poor. In Zimbabwe the youth/students demanded the withdrawal of the troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo in favour of peace talks and that the war is impacting on their ailing economy. In Nigeria too the youth has led major campaigns against the IMF and the World Bank. In Tunisia students and the unemployed youth took to the streets against the state on bread and butter issues. According to Diminique ‘in February, demonstrations by high school students and young unemployed workers had broken out in several cities in the south after rumours of a bread hike’ (World Press Review, 2000).

Generally the youth has been in the forefront of the struggle and waging battles against tyrants. They have been leading struggles and some had also directly led to the overthrowing of their governments, but they remain short-troopers and contributors of social development.

It is only the working class that has capacity to reconstitute the society from what it is to what it wants according to Marx and Engels ‘the history of all hitherto existing society is a history of class struggle’stood in constant opposition to one another’either in a revolutionary reconstruction of society at large or in the common ruin of the contending classes’ (Marx and Engels in Netshitendze, 2000).


‘There is vacuum in discourse and mobilisation on critical social issues. So new forces emerge, seeking to build legitimacy through initiatives that do not openly and directly oppose government, but they try to set the agenda by appealing to the sentiments of the middle strata and directing the focus of government mainly towards the upper classes'(Joel Netshitendze, 2000).

This statement is imperative to the discourse on the role of the organs of civil society. This is informed by the fact that the state is a non-monolithic entity as it involves social groupings contending for power and resources. The youth like any social force grapples with its responsibilities and sometimes with the new role in case of the transition. South African youth also is in crisis as it trying to find its feet in the current conjuncture. We want to look critically on the problems facing the youth generally in the country.

Apartheid and colonialism of a special type as coined by the SACP in the 1960s has led to a very divided society even amongst its youth, thus the youth in South Africa cannot be seen as homogenous. They are divided along class and colour line. David Masondo (1999) in his brilliant piece captures this clearly that:

Given the uneven development of South Africa as informed by CST, the youth and students cannot be homogenous. Youth and students come from different class background. Their relations to the means of production are pre-determined by their class origin (family). Hence they are a stratum, not a class. Race, gender and class determined the pattern of youth development in the country’Their role in the struggle for development of South Africa was informed by the strategic objective of the NDR, i.e. the liberation of Blacks in general and African in particular. This further found political and organisational expression in the Progressive Youth Formations.

In the last years of 1990s we have noticed the new character and trends of young people. This youth generation has lost interest in politics and this loss of interest is reflected on the weakness of the youth and student movements generally. In the memorial service of his aide Parks Mankahlana the State President (Thabo Mbeki) alluded that ‘the youth ignorance and apathy is very disturbing’.

The youth today is highly materialistic and apolitical. They now concentrate on expensive clothes and jewelleries. They are called a carefree youth because they now claim that they are free to do anything even not voting. This is echoed by David Everatt that ‘the transformation is complete’. The feared foot-soldiers of the revolution had been put in their place and moulded to fit the new, consumption-driven capitalist South Africa. The media especially the electronic also contributed in further to marginalisation of the youth with the nature of movies and programmes they show.


According to Antonio Gramsci, mass consciousness was and the role of the intellectuals was crucial. It is important at this juncture to note that when Gramsci wrote about intellectuals, he was not referring solely to the boffins and academics that sat in ivory towers or wrote erudite pieces for academic journals only read by others of the same ilk. His definition went much further and he spread his net much wider.

He argued that ‘all men are intellectuals’ {and presumably women} ‘but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals’. The meaning is that everyone has an intellect and uses it but not all are intellectuals by social function. Each social group that comes into existence creates within itself one or more strata of intellectuals that gives it meaning, that helps to bind it together and helps it function. The can take form of manager, civil servants, the clergy, professors and teachers, technicians and scientists, lawyers, doctors etc. Essentially, they have developed organically alongside the ruling class and function for the benefit of the ruling class.
Gramsci maintained that the notion of intellectuals as being a distinct social category independent of class was a myth. According to him (Gramsci) there are two types of intellectuals traditional and organic.

Traditional – are those who do regard themselves as autonomous and independent of the dominant social group and are regarded as such by the population at large. They give themselves an aura of historical continuity despite all the social upheavals that they might go through. Examples are the philosophers and professors. These are what we tend to think of when we think of intellectuals. Although they like to think of themselves as independent of ruling groups, this is usually a myth and an illusion.

Organic is the group that grows organically with the dominant social group, the ruling class, and is their thinking and organising element. For Gramsci it was important to see them for what they were. They were produced by the educational system to perform a function for the dominant social group in society. It is through this group that the ruling class maintains its hegemony over the rest of society. He maintained that what was required was that not only should significant number ‘traditional’ intellectuals come over to the revolutionary cause Marx, Lenin and Gramsci were examples of this but also the working class movement should produce its own organic intellectuals. To point out that ‘there is no human activity from every form of intellectual participation can be excluded’ and that everyone, outside their particular professional activity, ‘carries on some form of intellectual activity ‘, participates in a particular conception of the world, has a conscious line of moral conduct, and therefore contributes to sustain a conception of the world or to modify it, that is, to bring into being new modes of thought’. This might be seen as if he was exaggerating the possibilities but what he was really trying to convey is that people have the capability and capacity to think. The problem was how to harness those capabilities and capacities.

From the document called speaking truth to power: A challenge to South African Intellectuals, Prof P.P Ntuli uses the following quotes:

By sociologist Edward Shils and cited by Edward Said in his 1993 Reith Lectures.

‘In every society’ there are some people with an unusual sensitivity to the Sacred, an uncommon reflectiveness about the nature of the universe, and the rules which govern their society. There is in society a minority of persons who more than the ordinary run of their fellow-men, are inquiring, and desirous of being in frequent communion with symbols which are more general than the immediate concrete situations of everyday life, and remote in their reference in both time and space. In this minority, there is a need to externalize the quest in oral and written discourse, in poetic or plastic expression, in historical reminiscence or writing, in ritual performance and acts of worship. This interior need to penetrate beyond the screen of immediate concrete experience marks the existence of the intellectuals in every society’.

Archie Mafeje (1994) re-enforced Shil’s view:

‘In every society there is a general recognition of certain individuals who have a better understanding of things which concern their society. These ‘intellectuals’ n modern societies are associated with more than an average level of formal education ‘ There is some recognition that intellectuals’ status can be achieved through self education, especially in the arts’.

‘The intelligentsia is a broad and heterogonous grouping whose origin lies in the split between manual and mental labour in class divided societies. The work of the intelligentsia combines both conception and organisation of social processes and its explanation’. Mahmood Mamdani (1994)

Professor Ntuli argues that ‘ Mafeje’s definition centres on education, mainly as a criterion and Mamdani’s on class both do not seem to include those from ‘traditional’ societies; the healers ‘ izinyangi, izanusi, abalozi and others. He further posed a question: Are their definitions centred in African thought”

In addition to the question raised to what extent do expand our research capacity in the indigenous knowledge system

In all of the above the voice of young people as part of the critical sector of the society seems to be absent. One of the great South African Intellectual the late President of the African National Congress Oliver Thambo once said “a country that does not value its youth deserves no future”. Young people are leaders of tomorrow with a wealthy future in their hands. So while we continue to engage the role of intellectuals we need to bring the youth in the mainstream of the political economy by mentoring and for purposes of succession plan as touch bearers of the future.


Historically, policy makers have regarded youth as a transitional stage on the way to adulthood. Because of its transitory nature, it was not deemed necessary to design youth-specific policies. The assumption was that national development strategies would automatically address the needs of young people. The few youth-specific policies that did exist dealt with matters of ‘delinquency’ such as substance abuse, crime, teenage pregnancy, etc. There was a gradual shift from this approach after the declaration of 1985 as the International year of the Youth by the United Nations. The new approach advocated for the development of National Youth Policies in all countries and for appropriate national institutional mechanism to monitor the implementation of such policies.

In the South African context, it is acknowledged that a youth development strategy must deal with the legacy of apartheid and address the preset needs of youth. In 1993, the National Youth Development Forum (NYDF) advocated a two-pronged strategy. The strategy called for an enabling environment for youth development to prevent marginalisation of youth and children; and for specific programmes to reverse the apartheid legacy as it affected black youth. It developed this strategy based on its finding that South Africa’s socio-economic system continued to push young people to the margins society. A sizeable portion of the young people would continue to remain at the margins of society even if issues of transformation on the education system, economic growth and job creation were addressed.

It is highly impossible to begin to think of shaping the type of intellectual that will be produced by institutions of higher learning without firstly dealing with or changing the content that give rise to them. In the institution of higher learning that teaches its students that demand its only attracted by profit and repelled by need. It is difficult to make sense about production that seeks to address the needs of the society rather than the production that is focused on rand, interests and profit (surplus) that should accumulate to those who own means of production (corporatisation) supermarket of efficiency.

Over thirty nine percent of youth in South Africa constitute a substantial number of the overall population of the country. These young men and women were not afforded the chance to display their full potential by the previous apartheid government. The large numbers of these young people were women, in particular rural poor. The Kwazulu Natal province was not immune from this as it also shared a percentage of these young men and women.

The 1994 democratic breakthrough has offered many new opportunities and challenges to the previous disadvantaged communities. Youth is, in particular, recognised as a vital resource whose future prospects are inextricably tied to that of the country as a whole.

The National Youth Commission after an extensive consultative and research process handed over its Youth Policy 2000 to the President Nelson Mandela on 07 December 1998. The salient points of this policy were to:

(a) Provide a framework for youth development nationally, to ensure that youth are given meaningful opportunities to reach their right full potential;

(b) Address the major concerns and issues critical to youth and give direction to youth programmes and services provided by government and non-governmental organizations; and

(c) Provide the basis and foundation for a National Youth Action Plan ‘ National Youth Commission ‘ 16 June 1998.

A premise for constructing a new approach

The youth development discourse has reached an impasse and must shift paradigms. We should grapple with the task of building a new set of tools that can unleash potential. To this end I would like to put three premises on the table as a starting point for reconstructing a new approach.

i. The capacity to create positive conditions for the greatest number of young people lies on our ability to rebuild strong thriving and sustainable communities. Young people live in communities and not in special programmes. Special service and programmes are important and necessary. However, they should be seen as part of a more comprehensive effort to rebuild strong, stable and thriving communities.

ii. Young people should be integrally involved in the community change process. By being engaged they can develop core competencies while contributing to community development.

iii. Development – (be it of communities or of individuals) depends on our capacity to value and build on the assets and potential of young people. Granted young people do face difficulties in their development process, but they are also capable of initiating and sustaining positive change.

Approaches for development:

  1. Existing youth focused approach (driving mission: integrate youth into a social mainstream), through target groups for special programmes and a focus on solving youth problems. As a strategy to achieve this, we need to establish and provide youth services through special programmes. The outcome would be youth (project participants) with skills and resources they need to become productive well adjusted adults.
  2. Alternative community wide approach (driving mission: engaging youth in rebuilding communities), through identifying stakeholders in communities and participants in social change more importantly to establish an understanding of problems with the knowledge of youth assets and potential. As a strategy to achieve this, would be community organising, organising, youth participation and forge youth-adult partnership at a community level. The outcome would be strong thriving communities where all young people have solid development foundation to establish sustainability.

We need to design projects envisaging a future where all citizens, young people in particular are free from racial; sex and any form of discrimination, peaceful and united society where the youth could enjoy full and abundant life enabling them to be active participants, fulfilling their potentials, hopes, dreams and ‘ambitions’.

In 1976 through the uprising the world was astonished and reminded of how it was that South Africa had to be a democratic state for peace and prosperity. Young people showed the world that they were not going to sit back and let injustices go unnoticed. The events of 1976 re-enforced everyone’s action and instrumental in the way the struggle was to be waged. It is no exaggeration when one says that South Africa’s young people liberated their country.

In 1994 South Africa held her first democratic elections, the first towards peace and prosperity had been taken. Is it not ironic that many South Africans do not realise how important this was? How important democracy is? Many young people have suddenly become less interested in the country direction. With the ushering of democracy in our country, the civil society has also become weak. Democracy cannot afford a weak civil society, a weak civil society will shake the very foundations of democracy and this rise to negative tendencies. For our country, continent and the world to be at peace, nations need to produce a new brand of leaders who are critical, committed to change and who will be ambassadors of justice, peace and democracy.

Apart from the demands of the economy, in a country where, perhaps even more than elsewhere, there is a need to think beyond rigid categories; racial and ethnic boundaries, tolerance and understanding of difference, critical analysis, independent judgement and creative imagination are surely at a premium. There are precisely the attributes needed if South Africa’s fragile democracy is to become less fragile. In order to build responsible citizenry and secure social order, many intellectuals across the world (and not least in post colonial Africa) have discovered to their cost that the failure to defended these values has led to the subordination of the university to the state and ultimately to the death of democracy and freedom itself.

It can be argued that these key values are derived from the critical self awareness and capacity to resist backwardness, which we learn from the understanding of humanities. We have models to emulate in our immediate history such as Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Robert Sobukwe, Oom Govern Mbeki, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Albertina Sisulu numerous others who stood firm for their beliefs.

So- quite simply, South Africa cannot afford not to be concerned with humanities, for it is in the humanities, more than anywhere else, that we are able to think alternatives, to ponder on where we have come from and where we are going, that we come to reflect what it means to be human, where in the words of Cloete and Bunting once more – we learn ‘to deal with and manipulate different cultural symbols, operate in diverse social setting and develop complex notions of identity and citizenship. It is no accident that the closest word to the ‘humanities’ in southern Bantu language is ‘Ubuntu’, a term which is at the heart of African moral philosophy.


For the better part of this paper the discussion has been talking in general terms. Yet the content of what has been taught in western universities in the humanities has never been context-free or uncontested. Since the nineteenth century, universities have been intrinsically linked to the nation state and have been responsible for inculcating a sense of national identity in their students. It is no accident that the advent of independence in Africa saw the tremendous expansion of universities: nor that every Bantu ‘homeland’ under apartheid regime was also given its ‘university’ regardless of whether it had the resources, human and financial, to sustain it. Nor is this entirely surprising that governments are not generally in habit of disbursing large sums of public money with no end in view.

This brings us to the crucial questions of ‘what humanities for which South Africans’ For, like all discourse, the humanities in South Africa come out of a specific history, a specific set of power relationships. Too frequently, it seems that whites seem to think that it is a matter of what black people need to learn rather than ‘ as Njabulo puts it ‘ ‘what whites may have to unlearn’. It is a truism to say that the university in this country as in colonial Africa more generally grew from European roots, and was shaped by nineteenth century ideals of what constituted a liberal education for a gentleman: an understanding of classical civilisation, its philosophy and languages; a knowledge of European history and literature. We should not fall into a trap of confusing ‘the humanities’ with these older notions of the humanities as the history and culture of ‘western civilisation’. Nor should we be surprised that this concept of the university has come under attack here as in other parts of Africa after decolonisation.

So far the translation, and the terms of cultural exchange, have been as unequal as they are in the more familiar terms of trade, as the last examples suggest. African Studies has for the most part been a marginal subject in the west, and in this, the South African universities have not done much better, despite the valiant efforts of a handful of scholars in archaeology, history, African literature and language, notably here at Wits and in two or three other institutions. Yet no university is separate from its society; and in the ‘new South Africa’ the study of Africa must surely be central as Thabo Mbeki advocacy of the concept of an African Renaissance reminds us.

Clearly for most of us the language and literature, history and culture, of our own societies is the starting point: most school children in Britain or French or American history, literature and society. So in South Africa, we need to rethink a South Africa whose hegemonic self-image has been in Western Europe and place it back in Africa, by questioning what Mahmood Mamdani has called the myth of South African exceptionalism. To do this, Mamdani argues we need ‘A study of Africa whose starting point is the commonality of the African experience’ but which at the same time does not deny South Africa’s dramatically different historical path. This he believes will not only help to reshape our perceptions of South Africa; it will also enable us to rethink Africa. Such rethinking in both directions was impossible during the apartheid years, now that apartheid is over, it opens an exciting challenge for scholars, both here and in the rest of Africa.

It is striking, for example, how in a recent collection on Africa and the Discipline, noted scholars in history, philosophy and literature have argued about the ways in which our very fields of study have already been transformed by the study of Africa. As Christopher Miller remarks in that collection, ‘The furious backlash this has aroused’ in the USA and elsewhere has obscured the extent in fact non-Western studies ‘have already been institutionalised and rendered unexceptionable to a wide community of scholars. In the same volume, Kwame Anthony Appiah and V.Y. Mudimbe argue that the study of key issues arising out African philosophy illuminates central problems ‘ such as the nature of scientific and religious thought ‘ in western philosophy.

The historian, Steve Feierman, goes even further in saying that the study of African history has transformed the nature of our subject, not only by revealing that ‘what was thought to be universal history was in fact very partial and selective’, but in destabilising the very categories of analysis and periodisation of world history which have derived from European experience: the state, slavery, the impact of capitalism ‘ one could go on and on. African history has also showed with exceptional clarity the value of oral history, historical archaeology and historical linguistics in revealing the history not only of preliterate people in Africa (and elsewhere) but also of all those many silent people who left no written record, and have generally been hidden from history, transforming out notion of agency and of geographical boundaries. As a result an African history, like gender history, is not an optional, multicultural add-on, as Feierman says, it changes ‘our understanding of general history, and of Europe’s place in the world, in profound ways’. Ultimately Feierman sees a connection between the ‘crisis of historical representation that came about when historians began to hear the voices of those who had been voiceless and the more general epistemological crisis affecting all the sciences and humanities’.

This is an exciting opportunity for this African Scholarship University that would be able to explore complexity and ambiguity of this contradictory shared past with its different stories, but that it also stand on the threshold of a discovery of the far longer past linking South Africa to its African hinterland. This will be only possible if we find ways to defend subjects which in our consumerist age of the ephemeral may not be blessed with student numbers but which have to be preserved if the promise in the liberatory moment of 1994 is to be achieved.

Public debate as a necessary tool for democracy

1994 general elections brought lot of challenges, which demanded change in South Africa’s policies to be reflective of democratic principles. Indeed, a process of moving from an old order to the new is never easy due to complexities and confusions emanating from this process. Such complexities and confusions leave the society particularly the disadvantaged communities in the dark particularly when we fail to create platforms to clarify these complexities and confusions and also reflecting achievements that this democracy brought to our lives.

In the past the youth were instrumental and influential in policy decision-making of civic organisations and actively involved in struggles against apartheid. Their views were expressed through public meetings organised by civil society structures. In this democratic dispensation such public meetings, forums and debates are no longer there at all, as a result many South Africans remain in the dark not knowing whether the country is it moving forward or backwards. The lack of confidence by young people to our government need much to be desired because such leads to many complaints, dissatisfactory, irresponsible citizenry and lack of activism which result to poor participation in social, political and economic transformation. Beneficiaries are only those who strongly active in their structure and have access to technology where information can be accessed.

These debates and forums are not even created in institutions of higher learning as centres of knowledge production. The presence of young people is no longer felt in the society perhaps this vacuum exist because of the extent in which students, youth and the society understand the current conjuncture and challenges of this new order. The youth and young intellectuals as touch bearers of the future demand their rightful place in the society by calling the creation of public debates where knowledge and information can be transmitted to the society in general.

Gender Transformation is a critical challenge in the transformation of our African Continent

Before we make serious statements, it is important that we understand exactly what we mean by ‘gender’. Too, often, the concept of ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ are used interchangeably while they are quite different. Often, ‘gender’ is seen as referring only to women. Another common misunderstanding is that it simply means addressing men and women’s concerns equally. This ignores the unequal power between men and women and undermines the central objective, which is the emancipation of women.

Sex refers to biological difference between men and women. Gender on the other hand refers to differences between men and women that are created by society and by culture. They are therefore not natural differences, but created through socialisation using institutions such as the family, the church, religion, education and schools, the state and economy. When we refer to ‘gender relations’ we are referring to the fact there is an unequal power relationship between men and women.

Patriarchy refers to the system of male domination and control at all levels of society. It has a material basis in the sexual division of labour, exploitation of women’s unpaid labour and their subordination in the household. It is supported by patriarchal ideology that sees women as inferior to men. In terms of this sexual hierarchy men and women are accorded different roles. For instance, women role is conceived as being a nurture and caregiver, while men are entrusted with decision-making.

Patriarchy manifests itself in all aspects of society including the economy, political institutions and ideologies, legal system, religion, social and cultural institutions, such as the family, the media, education systems and so forth. The nature of patriarchal relations varies from society to society. At the same women’s oppression takes various forms depending on race, class, religion, marital status and age.

Gita Sen argues that ‘A gender perspective means recognizing that women stand at the crossroads between production and reproduction, between economic activity and the care of human beings, and therefore between economic growth and human development. They are workers in both spheres ‘ those most responsible and therefore with most at stake, those who suffer the most when two spheres meet at cross purposes, and those most sensitive to the need to better integration between the two'(Sen, 1995, p.12)

Such a belief in the transformatory potential of institutionalising a gender perspective in the social matrix in which macroeconomic processes are embedded is central to the strategy of the DAWN network of women activists in the South. Such institutionalisation requires more than women’s access to the policy-making process. It requires a change in the structure of entitlements so that the dice are no longer loaded against those who are not large scale owners of money capital. To access the potential prospects for the gains from institutionalizing a gender perspective, formal model building has to be complemented with comparative institutional analysis at the national and international level, which considers gender as an intervening variable in all parts of the system from which macroeconomic results emerge.

It is our take therefore that both as young intellectuals and the University of African Scholarship we continue to form part of gender struggles. It is my contend that the capacity of both human resource and infrastructure at our disposal can overcome the evils of gender inequalities.

To borrow from Mpumelelo Nhlapo (Masters Student at University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville Campus) when he argues that:

‘Whilst, it is essential for the working class to produce its own intellectuals in Gramsci’s terms as an organic form of the mentioned class of the mentioned class of intelligentsia. It should be noted that the public intellectuals should come from every walks of life, from every race regardless of gender and status. ‘There is no human activity from which every form of intellectual participation can be excluded’. South Africa is faced with new challenges and crisis on HIV and AIDS, poverty, landlessness and massive unemployment. Through the crisis and scourge of HIV and AIDS we have seen the emergence of Zachie Achmad and Treatment Action Campaign has without any shadow of a doubt managed to influence policy. South Africa needs public intellectuals to carry the new struggles against the prevalent social ills existing and try to combat the scourge of HIV and AIDS’.

The above argument encourages close working relations with the local community with commitment, responsibility and accountability as basic tenets of a democracy. Therefore young intellectuals should continue to struggle and strive to sustain people’s critical commitment to the social groups with whom they share fundamental interests.

If the future of any country lies with its youth what future has our youth in this period of rising spread of HIV and AIDS’ An information was given that on average a third of the students we teach will be dead within the nine to ten years. What is our social responsibility to them as brothers, sisters and parents’ How do we address the rising levels of xenophobia whilst preaching the religion of African Renaissance’

What is our social responsibility’ (Prof. P. Ntuli)

Emanating from these questions it becomes clear that there is a need for co-operation, solidarity and collaboration between institutional intellectuals, those within the broader society and ‘ordinary citizens’. The emphasis is to be placed on how ‘social responsibility’ could be socially defined by various groups in society.

Young Intellectuals especially those who are in leadership positions should make it a point that a spirit of revenge does not prevail in South Africa, as they laid foundations on positive peace in South Africa.

Young Journalists as Intellectuals in South Africa

Thokozani Kufakubonwa Magwaza famously popular as ‘TK’ (Masters Student at Westville Campus) argues that:

‘Some few perspectives on structuring of power in South Africa can be gained by analysis of the style and content of political communication through press and of the factors which affect the manner in which various newspaper media perform their different roles. For instance the content of the newspaper will determine its political role and it is necessary not to know the content, but also to know the factors that govern their choice of content. These factors range from a political system itself in which a newspaper operates or functions and of which it is an integral part’.

He (Magwaza) continues by quoting (Potter 1975:9)

‘The primary function of the press ‘ and the source of any influence it might have ‘ is communication. It is through the communication of attitudes, ideas and information that the press performs all its other functions. This does not seek to suggest that communication is the sole prerogative of the modern mass media, however, on the contrary, they are only one of the many sources from which individuals in the society acquire attitudes or information about their environment. However, by enlarging the personal experience of great numbers of people and imposing a uniform picture of their society journalists in the media fraternity are playing a big role as intellectuals in the society. Therefore, the structures which perform the specialist communication function are a significant barometer of the state of the society of which they are an integral part’.

Bandile Hadebe (Medical Student – Medical School, former SRC President) has written a document on: A pragmatic approach on the creation of Young African Intellectuals.

The premise of his document acknowledges the continuous process of the creation of the University of KwaZulu-Natal as extensively characterised by the revival of the African identity and societal relevance in education. He argues that:

“Central to the character of our University is the necessity, therefore, top develop ’emancipative education’, if we are to be relevant at all, specifically, within the South African scenario. Such an ’emancipative education’ will recognise that there is still a vast majority of our people, in our country who are persistently confronted by the harsh realities of poverty, not out of their own doing but through the deliberate repercussions of the Apartheid system, whose effect are as real today as they were when it was first implemented”.

He continued by suggesting the creation of Young African Intellectuals:

(a) through the curriculum
(b) through research electives
(c) through the faculties and management
(d) through Ingede website
(e) through student leadership and development

A response to the above document by the current CSRC Finances and Projects Officer Silindelo Bhengu was a call to establish Student Governance African Renaissance Forum where issues of African Union (NEPAD) can be grappled with and also give meaning to the vision of the University of KwaZulu-Natal that of African Scholarship.

Deliberately I quoted these four students as mentioned above to indicate the readiness of our students and young people in taking their rightful place in society as torch bearers of the future. However, the limitation here is that they raised these crucial and important issues which I am in agreement with only when given assignments to perform. The relevant questions to be asked – where are these powerful assignments going after they have been marked? Are they serving a purpose towards the development of our society, or kept in Lecturer offices, or do they get discard by their authors.


The lack of love for South Africa by intellectuals. The love that, martyrs and icons of history Ghandi, Luthuli and Mandela had for their country. The love for social upliftment of the poor. The love that Che Guevara had “Let me say, with the risk of appearing ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings of love. It is impossible to think of an authentic revolutionary without this quality “.One must have a large dose of humanity, a large dose of a sense of justice and truth, avoid falling into extremes, into cold intellectualism, into isolation from the masses. Every day we must struggle so that this love of living humanity is transformed into concrete, into acts that will serve as an example”.

This is the love that transcends prison walls, death and torture for intellectuals that are true to their course.