Lifetime Achievement Award for former University of Pretoria, University of Limpopo head

Professor Noel Chabani Manganyi, a 2024 recipient of the Frantz Fanon Lifetime Achievement Award. Supplied

Professor Noel Chabani Manganyi, a 2024 recipient of the Frantz Fanon Lifetime Achievement Award. Supplied

Published Jul 5, 2024


The Caribbean Philosophical Association (CPA) has named Professor Noel Chabani Manganyi as one of the 2024 recipients of the Frantz Fanon Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award was conferred during the CPA annual conference last week in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Previous winners include South African philosopher, Professor Mabogo Percy More, feminist philosopher Linda Martin Alcoff, and academic activist Angela Y. Davis.

The Frantz Fanon Lifetime Achievement Award honours the recipient for the importance of their work to the association’s ongoing project of “Shifting the Geography of Reason.”

Given that Manganyi is a clinical psychologist, his contributions speak to Fanon’s legacy as a clinician, scientist, philosopher, and freedom-fighter.

Moreover, Manganyi’s work as an author, biographer and social critic bears testament to his contribution as a thought leader, and his own legacy as an activist intellectual. He stands as a pre-eminent South African and global clinical and theoretical psychologist, and social theorist. A committed intellectual activist during the traumatic apartheid years and beyond.

In addition to being one of this year’s recipients of the premier award, Manganyi, South Africa’s first Black clinical psychologist, has received many accolades that include an Honorary Fellowship of the Psychological Society of South Africa, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Research Foundation, and the Humanities Book Award of the Academy of Science of South Africa.

Manganyi has held several senior positions in the South African academy, across four different institutions of higher learning. In 2006, he completed his three-year term as the Vice Principal of the University of Pretoria and was subsequently appointed Senior Research Fellow of UP’s Unit for Advanced Study. Prior to these roles, he was the Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of the North (his alma mater), now University of Limpopo, from 1990 to 1992.

He also had a nine-year stint as Professor and Senior Research Fellow, African Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersand from 1981-1990. At the University of Transkei, from 1976 to 1980, he was Professor of Psychology and Dean of the Faculty of Arts.

In light of his academic roles and contributions to psychology in South Africa, Manganyi was acknowledged by four universities. The University of the Witwatersrand and the University of South Africa awarded him with honourary doctorates. The psychology department at Rhodes University bestowed him with a Certificate of Acknowledgement in recognition of his contributions to psychology and social change in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela University ha also recently conferred him with an Honorary Doctorate in Psychology, in 2023.

Despite facing many obstacles from his youth, he surmounted them to become the country’s first black psychologist. He undertook his undergraduate studies at the then University of the North and later completed his masters and doctoral degrees the University of South Africa (Unisa). In 1970, he received his doctorate with his thesis entitled “Body Image in Paraplegia,” followed by post-doctoral research at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Manganyi’s prolific careers extends beyond the borders of South Africa. As early as 1971, he embarked upon a leadership exchange programme, visiting major American university clinical psychology training facilities at Harvard University, Yale University, and Stanford University, among others.

Beyond his work as a clinical psychologist and educator, Manganyi distinguished himself as an academic citizen. Among other roles, he was appointed Executive Director of the Joint Education Trust. He later served on the boards of the Academy of Science, and the United States South Africa Leadership Exchange Programme.

Notable achievements in this arena are that he oversaw the transformation of the South African Department of Education when he served as the Director-General from 1994 to 1999, and when he was Chairperson of the Council for Higher Education from 2007 to 2012.

Over and above his work in clinical practice and academia, Manganyi also reserved time to document the apartheid milieu and its impact upon South African society through his writing.

His offering was practical psychology that could be applied to and address the skewed power relations in the country. His early works were groundbreaking, if one considers that he was the first black professional in clinical psychology. He identified several critical imperatives for mental health services that should be made more appropriate and accessible to all South Africans, a call which is still pertinent today.

Manganyi’s many books include the classic Being-black-in-the-world (1973, 2019), and the biographies on E’skia Mphahlele, Gerard Sekoto, and Dumile Feni. In some of his writings he incisively examined the effects of institutionalised racism that characterised South Africa, including alienation and distorted individual body relations amidst a quest for freedom.

Manganyi’s intellectual pursuits took a personal and introspective turn when, in 2016, he turned the lens on himself to write a memoir and autobiography entitled Apartheid and the Making of a Black Psychologist, which won the Academy of Science of South Africa’s Humanities Book Award in 2018. The book illuminates the history of South Africa through sensitive, insightful, personalised accounts of the devastating effects of rural poverty, family dislocation, migrant labour, and Bantu Education on entire communities.

A long term colleague and friend of Manganyi, and fellow University of the North alumnus, Professor Mabogo Percy More, joins the CPA in spotlighting Manganyi’s legacy. More wrote “Noel Chabani Manganyi: Being-Black-While-Alienated in Apartheid South Africa,” (2024), where he traces Manganyi’s journey in his various capacities, to track his theoretical and philosophical contributions. The book demonstrates how Manganyi grappled with alienation of human beings from one another, from their bodies, and from themselves, within the context of apartheid, and the persisting challenges of race, antiblack racism, and the related problem of the alienation in post-apartheid South Africa.

Manganyi’s children, Nkhensani Nkosi and Tintswalo Manganyi, acknowledge this prestigious award on behalf of their father and family: “This recognition of Professor Manganyi's monumental contributions to the realms of psychology, human development, and academia fills our hearts with immense pride and joy. This illustrious award is a reaffirmation of the significance of his work and a humbling attestation to and reflection of his remarkable contributions, tireless pursuit of knowledge and commitment to the betterment of humanity.”

In the words of Dr Jacqueline Martinez, President of the Caribbean Philosophical Association: “Chabani Manganyi’s clinical and intellectual achievements stand as an exemplar of a life dedicated to usurping the power of institutionalised racism from the level of the singular human being struggling to survive and thrive, to the broader social level in which social structures themselves exert relentless power against that very struggle. Manganyi’s work carries on the tradition of radical struggle inaugurated by Fanon himself.”

Dr Sekele-Manganyi, Manganyi’s wife, responds to the CPA: “We also wish to express our appreciation to the esteemed members of the Caribbean Philosophical Association’s Awards Committee for their generosity and thoughtful consideration in selecting Professor Manganyi as the recipient of this distinguished honour. May his legacy continue to inspire future generations to strive for excellence and make a difference in the world.”

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