The Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy (CANRAD) at Nelson Mandela  University provides an intellectual and social space for debate on the complexities of post-apartheid South Africa as we seek to establish a new non-racial and democratic social and economic order. CANRAD is an initiative that meets with urgent regional, national and global priorities and hopes to become a centre of excellence in critical scholarship on racism, non-racialism and democracy.


As a public institution - and one that derives its very name from the iconic former State President - the University deems itself socially obliged to be pro-active in this endeavour. Nelson Mandela University is a value-driven university working towards optimizing the potential of its internal and external communities for the sustainable development of the African continent. Accordingly, its Vision 2020 is “to be a dynamic African university, recognised for its leadership in generating cutting-edge knowledge for a sustainable future.” Drawing from the iconic former State President Nelson Mandela, the university adopted the values and principles of transformation and equity, respect for diversity, people-centeredness, student access, engagement, excellence, innovation, and integrity.

The historic establishment of political democracy in 1994 brought with it a new reality and hope to forge a society based on equity, non-racialism and democracy. The Constitution of South Africa contains some of the world’s most progressive ideals and policy directives to restore human dignity and respect for all people, irrespective of ‘race’, class, gender, and nationality.

In particular, it proposes the fundamentals for dismantling the iniquitous social and economic relations of the apartheid past. However, South Africa, like many other nations in the world, continues to suffer from the socially constructed expressions of race and ethnic differences. The false idea of racial categorisation, a discontented heritage from colonialism, is proving to be a growing burden on nation states and ordinary people vis-à-vis conflict, violence and dehumanisation. This questionable condition has also found prominent spaces in discourse, cultural theory and ideological choices. Hence, a duality has come to exist in the world, where some people engage in celebrating race and identity, while others are attempting to reconstruct the basic humanity of all people.

The reconstruction process, in particular the abstractions of human dignity, respectfulness and hospitality, cannot be achieved wholly by protocols or policy statements. It requires a process of engagement, which must stand upon people’s episteme and cultural consciousness to both learn and unlearn approaches, attitudes and behaviours.

Accordingly, a system of deliberate compacts must come to bear over the environment, including the academic environment.

Establishment and mandate

The establishment of CANRAD is in line with the vision and mission of the Nelson Mandela University. It was launched in March 2010 as CANRAD in a response to the grave concern that racism, its alternatives and associated impact on development has not given sufficient scholarly attention in South Africa. While other universities have established centres of excellence for research, Nelson Mandela University has taken the additional step of promoting non-racial and democratic activism within communities of practice, thereby promoting a transformative and lasting culture institutionally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

CANRAD has the considered mandates of the Council of the university, the Vice-Chancellor and management structures. CANRAD seeks to harness collective institutional capabilities in relation to research, teaching and learning, evidence-based advocacy, and interventions in advancing non-racialism and democracy.


To lead the advancement of non-racialism and democracy within the University and broader society.

Aims and objectives

The activities of the Centre are centred on the shared understanding of the interdependence of research, advocacy, education, and intervention.

The aims and objectives of the Centre include

  • conducting basic and applied research on non-racialism and democracy;
  • initiating projects that critically analyse the notion of race and the manifestation of racism and its alternatives;
  • strategically facilitating the integration of scholarship and transformative action relating to the advancement of non-racialism and democracy;
  • developing and implementing strategies relating to social cohesion within the Nelson Mandela University and broader society;
  • providing an advocacy platform for the advancement of non-racialism and democracy.

The structure of CANRAD consists of an Advisory Board of prominent national and international personalities, a Management Committee consisting of Nelson Mandela University leadership and scholars, and a small (but diverse and critically experienced) complement of staff.  


CANRAD produces the following:

  • peer-reviewed scholarly publications;
  • dynamic networks between scholars and those involved in support of various non-racialism and democracy initiatives;
  • colloquia and conferences where the challenges of race and nascent democracy can be discussed; and
  • dissemination of findings on all such matters.

Engagement with faculties of Nelson Mandela University (on Nelson Mandela Bay and George campuses)

CANRAD works with all constituencies of the Nelson Mandela University, i.e. academic and support structures, and all staff and student formations, towards the achievement of mutual goals. CANRAD collaborates with the faculties of Arts; Business and Economic Sciences; Education; Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology; Health Sciences; Law; and Science in three ways: co-supervising postgraduate students with members of faculty; providing occasional seminars, workshops and guest lectures for faculties, and developing community outreach projects. The collaboration process includes sub-themes such as Race, Democracy and Human Rights Education; African Scholarship; Cultural Studies; and Indigenous Knowledge Systems.