CANRAD LAUNCH - 23 March 2010


Canrad LaunchedThe idea of a centre to study the issues of race, in particular non-racialism, occurred over a period of two years between myself and the Chair of Council, Judge Ronnie Pillay. The discussion observed the absence of scholarly work on the concept of race, a concept so powerful, which created deep social divisions in the body politic and society in general. While there were some attempts in the 1970s and 1980s by the Black Consciousness Movement and other democratic movements respectively to debate and document race, there was no sustained effort beyond this period.

This represents a failure by the dominant political parties and other civil society formations to address the difficult questions of race, as well as to debunk it towards building a non-racial society. This lack also demonstrates the need to intellectualise and develop skills for putting together the foundation of a non-racial society. This imperative as a non-racial society will not emerge on its own, but organically, through thinking, deliberating and acting consciously. There is a need to invest social and political energies towards how we construct each other in non-racial terms and in conceptualising a new South Africa. Clearly, the need for alternatives to existing racialised construction is critical.

It was therefore resolved that the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) should be the forerunner of a non-racial project. There is a need for a Centre or an Institute which can contribute to progressive thinking about alternatives to race and racism. Part of the work must be to develop a common language that is aimed at undoing the damage caused by racism. The language must be liberating and emancipatory, which confronts the structural conditions of race and racism. It must also seek not to reproduce essentialisms.

However, we cannot contest and transform race unless we link it to the struggle for democracy. The psychological and social dynamics of race are embedded in dominant power relations in the economy, civilian life, and gender relations. The race and democracy nexus must show how citizens can live differently.

The Centre must therefore engage in academic, scholarly, and critical work which must be linked with social praxis. The Centre must engage in the here and now and actively go to schools, sporting clubs and community organisations to help develop strategies of ending racism. As a Centre located at the NMMU, which carries the iconic name of Nelson Mandela, it must exemplify the values of the life and times of Madiba.

Non-racialism gained an ideological basis in the 1940’s but it was never treated as a serious intellectual activity. It is therefore with great pride and anticipation that I wish the Director, Allan Zinn, with whom I shared a healthy political collaboration for over three decades, and his team strength in their challenging work. CANRAD has the institutional weight of the NMMU behind it. I am sure that very soon, CANRAD will create lively networks within the institution, provincially and globally.

I thank all Deans, staff, students, community representatives, and in particular Professor Catherine Odora-Hoppers, for gracing the launch of CANRAD. Professor Odora-Hoppers cancelled her trip to Ireland to be at the launch and I can assure you that when she gets going, she can be very striking. I also thank my beautiful choir whose entertainment will be spectacular to say the least. Enjoy the function.

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