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Book information

ISBN: 978-1-928341-46-8

Trim size: 230 x 150mm

Binding: paperback

Page count: 320 pages

Cost: R 325.00

Genre: Politics

Date of publication: October 2017



In 2012, Unisa, as the home of African intellectuals, and the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, as a premiere think tank on African matters, came together to host a colloquium on Mbeki@70. The essays presented on that day have been collected and edited into this book, Building Blocks Toward an African Century – Essays in Honour of Thabo Mbeki, Former President of the Republic of South Africa. In reflecting on the times and life of President Mbeki, the contributing scholars have had to contend with the challenge that the person who is the subject matter of the discourse is among us and will also read and make his own judgement about what is recorded.

The work done by the contributors, both in terms of their participation at the Colloquium of Mbeki@70 and their writings that constitute this volume, is an exceptional and outstanding undertaking. What is reflected in these essays goes beyond the person of Thabo Mbeki to include the identification of the problems that Africa needs to solve and venturing answers to some of the difficult questions that they pose. Readers will navigate through these interesting theses and will ascertain, among others, the following:

  • A detailed account of Mbeki as a statesman and intellectual forms a compelling and must-read introduction to this volume, which includes a critical analysis of the ANC’s performance under President Mbeki, their achievements, and the fault lines of South Africa’s nascent democracy owing to difficult policy choices.
  • A thorough examination of Thabo Mbeki’s contribution to intellectual engagement about Africa’s past, present and future. The book offers the current generation of leaders the tools of analysis to enable them to respond accurately to the problems facing Africa’s future.
  • While Thabo Mbeki has contributed immensely to the enhancement of Africa’s profile through the AU and other multinational institutions, the authors express misgivings about the strengths, relevance, and sustainability of Africa’s institutions, in particular, the AU.
  • The important question of ‘Who is an African?’ is thoroughly debated, and various permutations are offered as to whether that should be answered simply as a matter of colour or identity on the one hand, or a matter of ideas, vision, and commitment to Africa’s agenda on the other.
  • A strong and reasoned argument is made to assist the reader to look at Africa from a different and new perspective in terms of the need to focus on Africa’s people rather than simply on the basis of social or political structures and, in that context, the authors debate the critical matter of feminism in Africa.
  • An analysis of the fantasy of the supremacy of the white tribes in South Africa is made, which leads to the conclusion that that fantasy has the negative effect of impeding efforts towards the achievement of unity
  • The essays would not be complete without an examination of the important issue of leadership as epitomised by Mbeki’s vision, his thinking, and his works, and that is used to pose the question: what kind of leadership is required in today’s Africa to deal with her challenges?
  • In the end, the colloquium sought to address the matter of Afrocentricity in the process of knowledge production as a means of responding to Africa’s challenges rather than positioning Africans as simply the consumers of pre-packaged information from elsewhere and not Africa.


Barney Pityana (ed)

Edited with an Introduction by Barney Pityana; Max Boqwana; Mandla Makhanya; Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni; Vusi Gumede; Hellicy Ng’ambi; Pedro Tabensky; Tony Mbewa; Peter Lawrence; Adebayo Olukoshi; Catherine Odora Hoppers; Molefe Kete Asante; Chris Landsberg; Carolo Lopes; Mahmood Mamdani and Elias K. Bongmba.