A TRIBUTE TO PROF MV MZAMANE FROM DR JONGI KLAAS
The year was 1994, when a new academic of English Literature from the diaspora Professor Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane joined the English Department at the University of Fort Hare. He made an indelible mark as a passionate transcendental academic. He was a towering consummate intellectual with an exceptional gift of parting knowledge in a simplistic and yet exciting charismatic manner. It was an awe listening to his engaging academic discourse.
Professor Mzamane believed in a school of thought of holistic transformative pedagogy. As his students, we did not just imbibe and conceptualize knowledge, we were transformed in the process in order to understand that the learning terrain was inextricably linked to the broader socio-economic and political vicissitudes of our times. As disciples of his revolutionary intellectualism we felt responsible to transcend beyond the academic discourse to be transformative agents of change in our societies.
Within no time the students from other disciplines in the university would come just to listen to the living encyclopedia of English literature. His unmatched charisma and the passion for his academic discourse was a magnet which drew us closer to him. Most importantly he had an exceptional gift to weave the academic discourse into the complexities and the dilemmas of human kind and the immediate challenges of our societies.
What also made him a cut above the rest, was his ability to disembark from the ivory towers of intelligentsia in order to engage students of different backgrounds. As students we used to say, “Akanantanga” which meant that he had no competition at all. We felt that he was gift to us who arrived at a time in which our country was going through a great political dispensation of reconciliation and nation building. In a way, he used the academic discourse as a tool to interpret and to conceptualize our immediate challenges of the time.
Prof Mzamane was the embodiment of the virtues, the vanities and the vices of the anti-Apartheid generation from the diaspora, which brought profound hope and unshakable vision to see the Promised Land. As an undergraduate I became determined to follow on his academic footsteps. Prof Mzamane obtained his Masters degree at the University of Vermont in the United States of America and his PhD at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. Consequently, I obtained my Masters at the University of Oklahoma in the United States through a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship and a PhD at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom after I was awarded a Mandela Magdalene Scholarship.
What a selfless legendary academic. As Martin Luther King Junior once said, “A person has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of individual concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” As your former students we are the testimony of your selflessness. You were not perfect yet your versatility and courage constituted a glittering ever-shining star which provided light and hope during the trying times.
“Phumla ngoxolo Msimango wosala ezintiziyweni zethu”
By Dr Jongi Klaas, currently based at the South African Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Article written on his personal capacity).