Jordan vs Mangcu, round two

2011-01-15 15:09

Perhaps I was a tad less than generous in not acknowledging the sterling work on ­African intellectuals Dr Xolela ­Mangcu has done at both Wits and the ­University of Johannesburg.

But I would caution him against his rather impetuous “been there, done that” statement. (City Press, January 9)

One is not being defensive when filling in the blanks in others’ knowledge of the breadth and depth of black intellectual engagement and endeavour.

I think Mangcu will agree that he and his colleagues have, at best, scratched the surface with their writings.

He will accept, too, that they have only addressed African intellectuals from Eastern Cape.

Yet there is the rest of the country and a tradition that evolved over the past hundred years that needs to be explored.

Mangcu and others may find it unpalatable, but a huge chunk of that intellectual history will relate to the ANC and its allies.

The ­longevity of the movement, 99 years, makes that inevitable.Mangcu implies that we owe the idea of self-determination – being “authors of our own fate” – to Biko.

Precisely the notion I contest.

I, like many others, readily ­acknowledge Biko’s contribution to the liberation struggle.

But let us keep matters in perspective. Biko was politically active for less than 20 years and was murdered in the prime of his life.

So let us be careful not to erase more than 10 decades of ­intellectual endeavour in order to assert his place in that history.

It is just plain wrong to suggest that these ideas were in any way original to Biko.And, as one who has in fact ­explored this terrain, it surprises me that Mangcu insists on doing so.

Surely, he knows better.Perhaps Mangcu could say: “I’ve been to the old part of that ­neighbourhood, and seen the church steeples.”

So there is no “been there, done that” about it.As he knows, people who wear ­T-shirts bearing that legend are also reputed to say: “It’s Wednesday; this must be Rome!”A great deal more still needs to be done.

And given Mangcu’s fears about the “incestuous relationships among white academics”, I think it is incumbent on him to explore the other parts of the neighbourhood.

I was merely trying to remind him that it is bigger than he imagines.

» Jordan is an ANC NEC member 

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