Alan Paton Lecture Reflects on Selfless Leaders

The 26th Alan Paton Lecture was presented by Dr Sibongiseni Mkhize and Professor Jill E Kelly at the Colin Webb Hall on the Pietermaritzburg campus on 2 May. Mkhize’s lecture was titled: Service, Sacrifice and Social Justice on the road to the new South Africa, while Kelly’s topic was Chief by the People: Inkosi Mhlabunzima Maphumulo and the Search for Security during the Transition to Democracy in South Africa. Both focused on struggle stalwarts’ vision of social justice. 
The Lecture is hosted annually by UKZN’s Alan Paton Centre and Struggle Archives to commemorate Paton’s life, and to discuss the issues to which he devoted so much of his time. Previous lectures have covered topics such as liberalism; the struggle against apartheid; prison reform for juvenile offenders; the South African political situation; human rights; and literary, educational and environmental issues.
Mkhize, who is the CEO of the South African State Theatre and the former CEO of the Robben Island Museum, traced the 70-year political career of H Selby Msimang, a founding member of the African National Congress (ANC). ‘He was willing to work for others without expecting anything in return. As a nation, we can benefit from asking how far we are in realising such ideals,’ Mkhize said. He posed the question of whether service, sacrifice and social justice have been incorporated into the fundamental values of the new South Africa, particularly in relation to people, politics and governance. Mkhize said that he was honoured to present the Alan Paton Lecture as “‘I am a child of UKZN, having studied here from 1992-1997.’

Kelly is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Southern Methodist University. She traced Inkosi Maphumulo’s journey from rebel chief to peace chief, to first president of the United Democratic Front-aligned Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa. Kelly noted that ‘his vision of traditional authority is important today with the public having conversations about the state of traditional authority and land.’ She added that Inkosi Maphumulo used his authority as a traditional leader to serve the common good. Kelly said that it was an honour to present the lecture as she has conducted extensive research at the Alan Paton Centre and Struggle Archives.The lectures were followed by the launch of Kelly’s, new book, To swim with Crocodiles: Land, Violence, and Belonging in South Africa, 1800-1996, published by the UKZN Press. It offers a fresh perspective on the history of rural politics in South Africa from the rise of the Zulu Kingdom to the civil war at the dawn of democracy in KwaZulu-Natal.