Book Launch – A Frank and Hard-Hitting Reflection on Transformation and Leadership in South Africa’s New Dispensation
Leadership for Transformation Since the Dawn of South Africa’s Democracy: An Insider’s View chronicles the personal experiences of former Vice-Chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba.
The book was launched at UKZN’s Howard College campus on 8 November 2023.
Set against the backdrop of Makgoba’s return to South Africa 29 years after being abroad for 13 years, the book is a personal story of his experiences and a critique of transformation, leadership and teams. ‘Transformation is not without pain,’ said Makgoba as he highlighted the salient points of his second book including a balanced but sometimes scathing insider’s view of South Africa’s former presidents including Nelson Mandela (who he credited as being a decisive leader who wanted to reconcile the country) and Thabo Mbeki (who he said actively transformed the country but had a ‘blind spot for Zimbabwe, AIDS and interfering everywhere’). Delving into the reign of Jacob Zuma, he referred to him as ‘famous and very popular’ – and likened him to Roberta Flack’s hit song – Killing me softly. Finally, he turned the spotlight on Cyril Ramaphosa labelled by Makgoba’s daughter as ‘an avoidant leader’ who makes too many promises that he does not keep.
Makgoba’s book places the two universities that he served at under the microscope. The University of the Witwatersrand (where the transformation process was ‘aborted’) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (where he anchored whatever he did in academic excellence while rigorously taking on the transformation agenda).
Trained as a biologist, he fielded questions from the audience which included student activists. He said, ‘You don’t have to be a politician to make a meaningful contribution to the transformation of your own country. You all occupy spaces of one form or another – use that space!’
He advised students to document their thoughts and underscored that his book isn’t a complete solution, but rather a perspective to a solution: ‘I have written this book. I’m not saying it’s an answer to the problems of South Africa because I’m not Jesus Christ – I’m just Makgoba.’
Reflections on the book include a review by Dr Thami Mazwai, former journalist, anti-apartheid activist and former National Planning Commissioner: ‘Malegapuru Makgoba speaks to our collective conscience as he retraces the steps of the last 29 years – more so in health and education. These two encapsulate the basis of our future.
‘While this is an autobiography, from his undergraduate to professional life, his engagements with the four presidents he has worked with suggest that we take a deeper look at how we select our leadership. His analytical narration asks if post-1994 catchphrases sayings like Batho Pele and other are genuinely end states we aspire to or mere statements of convenience.’
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize, acknowledged Makgoba’s role in overseeing the merger and leading the transformation agenda at the University and tipped the book as an ‘invaluable instrument’ for transformation and leadership.
Political Science lecturer, Dr Dorcas Ettang, and master’s student, Ms Nthatuwa Leeke, were part of the panel and raised thought-provoking points about leadership in Africa and the qualities of effective leaders. Professor Simangaliso Kumalo was the programme director at the event that was attended by former leaders of the University, members of staff and current students. Entertainment was provided by indigenous instruments maestro, Zawadi Yamungu.
The book’s publisher Dr Mothobi Mutloatse (Skotaville Publishers) encouraged attendees to read voraciously as ‘then you can speak with conviction.’
To view the book launch, click here.
Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer
Photograph: Sethu Dlamini