By Trevor Grundy
Nelson’s Mandela membership of the South African Communist Party (SACP) will be one of the main topics up for discussion in London on December 5 when the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICWS) hosts a one- day seminar on the myths and realities surrounding the life and legacy of one of Africa’s greatest sons.
Around 150 academics, journalists and members of the public will gather at The Senate at London University on the first anniversary of Mandela’s death to discuss some of the complexities of his ideology, political relationship with other liberation movements within South Africa and his record as the first black President of South Africa. A conference spokesperson said: “December 5 marks the first anniversary of Mandela’s death. At his passing, an enormous amount of media material was produced, reflecting on multiple aspects of his life and work; a considerable amount of this was relatively superficial and understandably hagiographic. Now that more time has passed, there is both opportunity and need for a more dispassionate assessment of the complexity of the Mandela phenomenon; the continuing importance of debates about the armed struggle and his relationship with SACP.” She added: “The seminar intends to contribute to the on-going debate of myths and realities of Mandela and the complexities of his legacy.”
Mandela’s contribution to South Africa’s re-integration in the international system, after decades of ostracism, will once again go under the microscope and be examined by some of the people who played large and small roles in the liberation of South Africa. Several of the Commonwealth’s most prominent UK-based figures will be there, including the director of ICWS, Professor Philip Murphy and Dr Sue Onslow.
Speakers include Professor Tom Lodge of the University of Limerick; Dr Moses Anafu, former head of the African Section, Political Affairs Division, Commonwealth Secretariat and Special Envoy to South Africa (1991-1994) of the former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and Dr Hugh Macmillan of the University of Cape Town and African Studies Centre at Oxford University. Others include Dr Funmi Olonisakin, Director of the African Leadership Centre at Kings College, London; Dr Desne Masie, Royal African Society and University of Edinburgh; Knox Chitiyo, Associate Fellow, Africa programme, Chatham House and formerly a Nelson Mandela Fellow at RUSI; Paul Holden, co-author (with Martin Plaut) of “Who Rules South Africa” (2012) and Dr Merle Lipton, Associate Fellow, Royal Institute of International Affairs.