Winnie writer ignores key scholar


The article by Ntombizikhona Valela on Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (“The woman who helped forge an icon”, published on April 13) fails to acknowledge the likely influence of Dr Babalwa Magoqwana, who has been instrumental in presenting uMakhulu as a social institution of leadership and knowledge.

Magoqwana, who was a lecturer at Rhodes University at the same time Valela was a student, has been presenting her work on uMakhulu publicly for several years now.

The formulation of uMakhulu as an institution of leadership and knowledge has been received with great enthusiasm and warmth by many audiences, especially because this formulation clarified what most African students and scholars organically know about their own grandmothers and their epistemic role in African communities.

I note that Valela, in her own 2017 thesis on Madikizela-Mandela, threw in one line on uMakhulu and the names of some African feminists without so much as citing a word from their work.

This does not surprise me, since in Magoqwana’s public presentations on uMakhulu, she consistently referred to these African feminists, except she did so knowledgeably and with rigour.

I am glad that Magoqwana, who has spent years carefully working out this formulation as her contribution to African sociology, was acknowledged in 2017 when she was awarded a National Research Foundation-FirstRand Foundation sabbatical award to pursue a larger research project on uMakhulu as an institution, based on a thorough proposal.

Ask anyone who was at Rhodes, this specific formulation of uMakhulu was promoted by Magoqwana, who has patiently targeted the long and arduous, peer-reviewed process to publish her work.

It seems to me Valela fails to honestly acknowledge Magoqwana’s influence in her recent tweets and newspaper article, effectively erasing Magoqwana in service of acknowledging the significance of Madikizela-Mandela— Dr Nomalanga Mkhize, Grahamstown

Thank you for publishing my letter. I note that a key line was edited thus altering what I actually said in the published paper. I did not say “threw in a line on Magoqwana” as was edited in, I said, Valela “threw in a line on uMakhulu”. While it is now a minor point, I wish someone had asked before making such a crucial but inaccurate edit. — Dr Nomalanga Mkhize, Grahamstown

*The Mail & Guardian apologises for the editing glitch that resulted in this error.

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