The syllabus is devoid of home-grown South African contributions
Dr Tshepo Mvulane Moloi
As part of my pursuit and advocacy to advance the decolonisation of education, I share my trajectory in academia as a black South African.
I completed my undergraduate (2002 to 2005) and Honours (2006) degrees at the University of Zululand, with political science as a major. We were hardly taught about black South African political scientists. Oddly, this prevails across most institutions.
Why? Unbeknown to our credulous, budding minds back then, we overlooked that most of our lecturers were also colonised graduates. The two who taught me political science were alumni of the University of Pretoria and the University of Durban-Westville (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal). One was a descendant of Afrikaners and the other of Indians.
Emphasis on one’s race arose from absurd colonial bigotry which climaxed post the inauguration of an apartheid regime, in 1948.
The two lecturers were also victims, albeit in a different way from black graduates. Their flaws were, however, consistent, with the historical path imposed from a common inheritance, informed by racial prejudice.
In the context of post-1948 South Africa, owing to apartheid’s misconstrued policies on education, indoctrination was implemented, on the strength of the recommendations of the Eiselen Commission of 1952, which justified the dogmatic agenda, favourable to Afrikaners. It was pursued at the expense of scholarly objectivity. Such dynamics might elucidate why my lecturers did not realise the agency of revising contents of modules that did not prioritise teaching us about black and white scholars. They could have pursued it from foundation modules.
I wondered why my lecturers, when they had an opportunity to address such erasure did not do so. They continued with the dogmatic discourse, which renewed epistemic violence initiated by bygone colonialists.
It inspired my Honours project, to focus on ascertaining whether South Africa had its own foreign policy. To my dismay, the latter capstone abhorrently magnified white (Afrikaans and English) scholars as the mainly solitary scholars of South Africa’s foreign policy. Their names included Deon Geldenhuys, Peter Vale and Maxi Schoeman. No mention was made of Samuel Nolutshungu, Vincent Maphai and Tandeka Nkiwane. Black South Africans mostly featured as plenipotentiaries, as civil servants in the diplomatic corps since 1994.
The incongruence worried me. It baffled me that the discipline of political science reflected a critical gap of a lack of insights of black Africans. This persists.
My Master’s was titled "African Contribution to International Relations Theory" (UZ, 2012) and my doctorate "Es’kia Mphahlele’s Afrocentric Pan-African Humanism Paradigm" (UJ, 2019). My Master’s findings confirmed that the theme of "Africa’s contribution to International Relations (IR)", gathered momentum only from 2007, worryingly due to interest by scholars abroad, chiefly in England and America. They were, arguably, trying to overcome the flaws of IR: (being) racially parochial (owing to hegemony of Eurocentric scholars) and racially gendered (mostly reflected white males and their biased views).
The disturbing results of my study inspired recommendations consistent with an epistemic break from mainstream IR for my doctorate.
Mindful of locus of enunciation as a black South African, I selected Es’kia Mphahlele and the exploration of his Afrikan humanism as a possible African contribution to IR. Both my studies are freely available online.