31 August 2023

Prof Joseph Diescho's compelling lecture, titled "South Africa, still the epicentre of and for the reconstruction of Africa," offered a thought-provoking exploration of South Africa's ongoing significance within the broader context of African reconstruction and development.

Speaking to an attentive audience, which included the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Thoko Mayekiso, and other faculty members, academics, and students, Prof Diescho seamlessly weaved historical insights, modern challenges, and philosophical contemplation, all while encouraging introspection and unity.

Commencing his discourse by drawing upon the wisdom of historical figures, Prof Diescho emphasized the importance of approaching interactions with fellow African leaders from a perspective of fraternal consciousness, rather than adopting roles that may breed condescension.

Quoting President Julius Kambarage Nyerere's advice to avoid playing "Big Brother" or "Small Brother," Prof Diescho resonated with the need to foster relationships founded on mutual respect and understanding. He highlighted that such an approach contributes significantly to the unity of the continent.

UMPThe Public Lecture was attended by UMP Staff, Academics, Business leaders, and Students.  

 From the Berlin Conference to Ubuntu

Delving into history, Prof Diescho meticulously dissected the aftermath of the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884-1885. This conference, which arbitrarily divided Africa among European powers, left an indelible scar on the continent's unity. Prof Diescho accentuated the profound resonance of South Africa's unique identity, forged amidst the fragmentation caused by colonial powers.

"Revisiting the aftermath of the 1884 Berlin Conference is essential to comprehend South Africa's role in the continental context. European powers' partitioning of Africa redefined its identity and geopolitical landscape. The ensuing emergence of distinct nations, labelled as South Africans or East Africans, marked a disconnection from the broader African identity."

Transitioning to the concept of Ubuntu, Prof. Diescho elaborated on its significance, exploring its gradual erosion due to the advent of private property ownership and evolving societal dynamics. He artfully balanced the tensions between individual ownership and the communal ethos encapsulated by Ubuntu.

Afrophobia vs. Xenophobia: Unmasking Identity Struggles

A segment of Prof. Diescho's lecture unveiled the nuanced differences between Afrophobia and xenophobia. He introduced the term Afrophobia to shed light on the identity crisis faced by numerous African residents, leading to divisive perceptions and simmering tensions.

In his compelling lecture, Prof Diescho urged reflection on the foundational identity challenges that underpin these issues. He implored the audience to collectively examine how Africans perceive both themselves and each other.

"Let us momentarily address the tempestuous issue of xenophobia. The current narrative often portrays South Africans as hostile toward foreigners, an assertion grounded in some truth. Yet, a nuanced perspective is required to grasp the broader context. I posit that the phenomenon often termed xenophobia within South Africa is better understood as Afrophobia – a complex fear of fellow Africans."

"Tracing back to settler colonialism, we uncover the root of wounds borne by those who call this land home. This narrative perpetuates the notion that possessing a darker complexion necessitates justification for belonging. It's akin to being cast as a perpetual outsider."

UMPSpeaker Prof. Diescho with Vice-Chancellor Prof. Mayekiso, Dr. Maminza, Prof. Israel, Mr. Leutle, Prof. Mbewe, and Dr. Tshikwatamba.

Impact of self-development

Reflecting on the visionary aspirations of leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, Prof Diescho echoed the call for an African renaissance. He passionately urged South Africa to strengthen its governance systems, thereby nurturing pride, confidence, and active engagement in reshaping the destiny of the African continent. Drawing inspiration from Lao Tzu's teachings, he emphasized the profound impact of self-development and collective empowerment on shaping a harmonious and promising future.

As the lecture drew to a close, Prof Diescho seamlessly wove together historical accounts, philosophical insights, and contemporary challenges, illuminating South Africa's intricate role in African reconstruction. The lecture served as a resounding call for South Africans to embrace their distinctive heritage and become catalysts for positive transformation within the broader African narrative.

In reflecting upon the resonance of Prof. Diescho's lecture, one is reminded of South Africa's unwavering contributions to steering Africa's trajectory. The call to actively engage in the ongoing process of reconstruction and development reverberates resolutely, inviting each individual – particularly the youth – to play an indispensable role in shaping a brighter and more unified future for the continent.

Story by Lisa Thabethe. Pictures @ChrisplPhoto.

To watch the lecture, follow the link: