Saturday, 01 February 2020 06:11

The Nelson Mandela Foundation and Nelson Mandela University have joined hands in an effort to advance the legacy of the world icon after which they are named.

On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the former president's release from his 27-year imprisonment, the institutions will cement a strategic partnership that seeks to take Madiba's legacy forward into the next thirty years and beyond.

The University and Foundation – who share a common vision of entrenching Mandela's legacy in their respective contributions towards an equal and just society – have been in collaboration on a number of projects in that regard.

On Monday, 3 February, these institutions will formalise this partnership with a signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in the areas of social justice advocacy, scholarship and research and human rights activities as defined by the parties.

The collaboration between the University and Foundation stems from a unique colloquium hosted at the University as part of its year-long Mandela centenary celebrations programme early last year, titled Dalibhunga: This time? That Mandela?

This has, since then, birthed three projects – all geared at making a meaningful impact on society.

One such project is the Transdisciplinary Institute for Mandela Studies (TIMS), a joint project between the University, Foundation and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). The TIMS idea was launched last year during the Dalibhunga: This time? That Mandela? colloquium.

"Though many academic entities and outfits are named after Nelson Mandela, no programme on Mandela Studies yet exists, as far as we can tell. Nor is there an outfit like TIMS anywhere in the world," said Andre Keet, Chair for Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation (CriSHET) at Nelson Mandela University.

Explaining why the Foundation came on board to support TIMS, its Director of Archive and Dialogue, Prof Verne Harris, said the university was one of around 60 organisations worldwide authorised to carry Madiba's name but "it was very seldom that an institute carrying the name comes to us with a proposal to do meaningful work".

He said Mandela scholarship was in its infancy and was a space "dominated by white male voices", most of them overseas, with the dominant narrative repeated numerous times, so there were deficiencies in scholarship.

"This offers us a fecund [fertile] place to explore what could be done there ... We need to encourage robust, critical work."

Another project is the Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity (AFRE), which is also in its second year of collaboration. It is a partnership between the Foundation and Columbia University, in New York City, with Mandela University's role in the collaboration being to assist with developing curriculum content for the fellowship programme.

The Foundation, in collaboration with the non-profit organisation Habitat for Humanity, is also exploring working with the University's Department of Human Settlements on affordable community housing.