Pambazuka News brings to you the first Mwalimu Nyerere Memorial Lecture delivered by Haroub Othman on 14 October 2005 at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Haroub reminisces on the glorious days of the ‘Dar es Salaam School’, the massive impact it had on the liberation of Africa and the role that Mwalimu Nyerere played in shaping its development away from a colonial and Western intellectual mould. On his last visits to the University of Dar es Salaam, Haroub recounts, Mwalimu made “one very important point, that Africa South of the Sahara was on its own” and as such we “have to rely on ourselves, and to cooperate among ourselves.” Taking a leaf from that spirit of Pan-Africanism, Haroub reminds us that “the Southern African-subcontinent is facing a deep crisis”, urging its “present intelligentsia to transform our societies and to give content to human dignity”.
I want first of all to thank the East African Students Society, and the University of Cape Town in general, for organising this occasion to commemorate the death of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere; and for inviting me to give this lecture on someone I very much respect and admire. In my life I have met many African leaders, and if I could mention a few, and in order not to cause offence, only dead ones: Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea, Ferhat Abbas of Algeria, Augustinho Neto of Angola, Samora Machel of Mozambique, Amilcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, and Oginga Odinga of Kenya. I have also met several South African leaders, including historic personalities such as Oliver Tambo, Yusuf Dadoo, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Alfred Nzo, Duma Nokwe and Joe Slovo. But Mwalimu Nyerere was not just a leader; he was a statesman. I have deliberately avoided calling him a politician, because politicians come and go. Statesmen live on - the impact of their presence in society is felt for many years after their death. If I can paraphrase William Shakespeare, the good they do lives after them. I found Mwalimu Nyerere to be most articulate, supremely good at putting complex issues in very simple language and very effective in relating to his audience.
Many definitions have been rendered as to who is an intellectual. Is it somebody who has been to a university or, as Ali Mazrui once put it, “one who is excited by ideas and has acquired the ability to handle some of these ideas effectively”? Is it a professional or one who can stand up and talk on Picasso, Leo Tolstoy or Beethoven? Byron considered an intellectual not only a person attracted to ideas, but whose purpose in life, whose thought and actions were determined by those ideas. Issa Shivji holds that one of the important attributes of an intellectual is “the ability to laugh at ourselves”. I consider an intellectual as not only a person who is able to analyse the present but is also able to articulate ideas that would have a lasting impact on those who receive them. But whatever definition one might adopt, of importance is the fact that the role of an intellectual in any society is enormous.
Western education in Africa, especially in Southern Africa, is a recent phenomenon. Pre-colonial African societies, with few exceptions, had no formal educational systems. But if the purpose of any education, as Julius Nyerere put it, “is to transmit from one generation to the next the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of the society, and to prepare the young people for their future membership of the society and their active participation in its maintenance and development”, then these societies had appropriate educational systems. The aim of western education, which came with colonialism, was to instil in the minds of its recipients an idolisation for the superiority of the colonial master. First it was the sons of chiefs and other traditional leaders that received this education; and later, with the expansion of the colonial economy, more and more people acquired it. Budo, Kisubi, Fort Hare, Makerere, were all created for that purpose. The aim was to produce clerks, teachers, priests, agricultural extension workers, hospital assistants, and others, to help in the running of the colonial machinery.
University education was restricted to only a few. It was only after independence that education became accessible to more people. Of the few that received western education, not all acted according to the expectations of the colonial regime. Some turned out to be the most vehement opponents of the colonial system not only in the political and economic spheres, but also in the areas of education, culture, and others. The reasons are obvious.
Colonialism affected both the traditional chief and the ordinary worker. It did not even allow the emergence of the native capitalist. While in the colonial possessions of Asia and semi-colonial China, a local compradorial class was allowed to exist, in most of Africa this class did not emerge. It is no wonder then that in most of the African states the harbingers of the nationalist movements were people coming from the colonial bureaucracy.
The countries of Southern Africa are not a homogeneous group. There are differences in history, culture and experiences. Even those that were ruled by the same colonial power, like Zimbabwe and Tanzania, or Angola and Mozambique, have differences in their social compositions and levels of economic development. There are amongst them countries that attained independence peacefully, such as Tanzania and Swaziland, and others, like Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe, which attained it through the barrel of a gun.
Due to the specific conditions of the countries of the region, each one traversed the independence path in her own way. And each country brought to the fore of the independence movements a group of individuals who by any definition can be called intellectuals. What was common in almost all the countries is the fact that this group comprised people with the highest commitment to the ideals of independence and dedication to their achievement.
The backgrounds of this highly politically active intelligentsia vary. In the case of Tanzania Mainland whose economy was basically peasant-based and where education in the early colonial days was mostly provided by Christian missionary schools, the products of such a set-up were people whose vision did not go beyond the peasant collective. This was different from a place such as South Africa where a large section of the community had been uprooted from their land, a numerically strong working class had been formed and where an independent political organisation of this class existed. The logical tendency in this kind of situation would be to produce intellectuals who, to quote Amilcar Cabral, would know where the struggle for national independence ends and the struggle for social emancipation begins.
One of the successes of the colonial system in the region was that it was able to produce an academia that was dependent on western intellectual production. This intelligentsia understood what was taking place in other societies, but lacked adequate knowledge of its own societies. This is what prevailed for a very long time in the African universities. Admittedly, a few individuals were to be found in the universities who went against the general mould, but the pattern was for the universities to be replicas of their western peers. As Mwalimu Nyerere stated, “Our universities have aimed at understanding Western society, and being understood by Western society, apparently assuming that by this means they were preparing their students to be – and themselves being – of service to African society”. The University of Dar es Salaam was the first in the region to break out of this mould.
Started in 1961 as a constituent college of the University of East Africa (itself enjoying a cooperative status with the University of London), the University College of Dar es Salaam became a full university in 1970 when a decision was taken by the three East African states to each form its own national university. The University of Dar es Salaam in its curricula and research agenda tried to break away from the paradigms set up by others. It aimed at inculcating a sense of commitment to society, and tried to make all who came into contact with it accept the new values appropriate to the post-colonial society. There was a deliberate attempt to fight intellectual arrogance because it was felt that such arrogance had no place in a society of equal citizens.
The University of Dar es Salaam also played its part in the intellectual development of the region. In the ten-year period from 1967 to 1977, the university was a major cooking pot of ideas, and provided a splendid platform for debate and discussion. No African scholar, leader or freedom fighter could ignore its environs. While the government brought its official guests to see its picturesque, Mount Olympus-like exterior, others came to seek knowledge or refine their ideological positions. Here, the East and West Germans, who officially were not talking to each other; the Chinese and the Americans, who officially could not stand each other; and the white and black South Africans, who at home could not even sit together in the same church, met in the seminar rooms built by Swedes and the British to debate not only on Tanzania’s development path but also the Vietnam war, the Palestinian Question, apartheid, the Chinese Cultural Revolution and countless other subjects. Very intense were these debates, and a huge number of discourses and manuscripts were churned out.
That kind of atmosphere existed partly due to conditions created by the Arusha Declaration – the country’s policy document on Socialism and Self-Reliance – and partly due to the liberal-mindedness of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who was the university college’s Visitor, and after the establishment of the University of Dar es Salaam, its first Chancellor. But one also must not under-estimate the impact that the presence of the liberation movements had on Tanzania’s intellectual development. These movements were not only engaged in struggles in their respective countries, but their leading cadres, as a result of these struggles, were forced to constantly refine their theories and assumptions; and they found the university campus an excellent testing ground for that exercise. Thus during the course of this process, the liberation movements not only brought in their towering figures, but also their dissidents and the harbingers of future conflicts. From FRELIMO of Mozambique came people like the religio-tribalist Rev Urio Simango, the liberal minded nationalist Dr Eduardo Mondlane, and the Marxist poet Marcelino dos Santos; from the ANC of South Africa, people like Duma Nokwe, Joe Jele and Ambrose Makiwane; PAC brought Lebalo and Gora Ebrahim; and the MPLA of Angola, Agostinho Neto and the future Nito Alves elements. The Communist Party of South Africa brought in its towering giants, Yusuf Daddoo, Moses Mabhida and Joe Slovo. Since I am in Cape Town, I should also mention that the Unity Movement also had its people appearing on the Dar es Salaam campus. Some of the most significant statements of these movements were made at the University Hill, including the famous one by Neto in 1974, before Angola’s independence, on ‘Who is the Enemy?’ that has remained to this day the MPLA’s weightiest document.
Sometime the staff houses on campus were turned into seminar rooms or places for social interaction. There were even times when they were used as hideouts when some leaders of liberation movements did not want their presence in the country publicly known. I remember occasions when Yusuf Dadoo and Joe Slovo (and if my memory does not fail me, Thabo Mbeki, the present President of South Africa, too) came to the university to ‘reflect’.
The Tanzanian press at the time provided a very useful platform for debate and discussion. The Nationalist (the ruling party’s paper) was under the editorship of Benjamin Mkapa, the current President of Tanzania; and the government newspaper, The Standard, was under the headship of Dr Frene Ginwala (the former Speaker of the South African Parliament}, as Managing Editor and Mwalimu Nyerere was the Editor-in-Chief. Apart from providing the news, these newspapers also published articles of high quality, and opened their pages for serious debates both on internal and international issues.
People from different parts of the world came to teach at Dar es Salaam. They were brought by different reasons. There were some who simply needed an African experience, but in a surrounding appeasing to their consciences; there were others who were moved by the country’s revolutionary potential, and being internationalists, felt that they needed to contribute; and still others, taking pauses from their own struggles, needed breathing space and periods of reflection. It was definitely the most international university one could ever find in the Third World. Some of the people who came were directly from schools themselves and therefore Dar es Salaam constituted their ‘baptism’; others were accomplished academics with international renown. Names of South Africans that easily come to mind are those of Ruth First, Archie Mafeje, Denis Brutus, Willy Kogkositle (the former husband of the present Speaker of the South African Parliament), Harold Wolpe, Bob Leshoai, Sixghashe, Dan O’Meara and his former wife, Linzi Manicom and Tshabalala (the former husband of the present South Africa Minister for Health). From within the Eastern and Southern Africa region, there came Nathan Shamuyarira who later on became Foreign Minister of Zimbabwe; Ibbo Mandaza, Miti and Frank Mbengo, all also from Zimbabwe; Orton Chirwa, the first Justice Minister in Malawi, and his wife, Vera (now a member of the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights) and Mutharika, the brother of the present Malawian President; Tunguru Huaraka from Namibia; Mahmoud Mamdani (who is known to this university), Yash Tandon and Dan Nabudere from Uganda; and Yash Ghai from Kenya. But people came also from far flung areas, including Guyanese historian and political activist Walter Rodney; the Hungarian economist Tamás Szentes; the Nigerian political scientists Okidigbo Nnoli and Claude Ake; the Ghanaians Aki Sawyer and Emanuel Hansen; the British historians Terence Ranger and John Illiffe, political scientist Lionel Cliffe and economists John Loxley and Peter Lawrence; the Canadians, Cranford Pratt who in fact was the first Principal of the university college and John Saul; and many others from Denmark, the United States and other shores. When I was in the then German Democratic Republic in 1985 for a conference on African studies, I found out that many of their Africa specialists had been to Dar es Salaam.
Many people, like Boutros Ghali, who was a university professor before he became a Minister in Egypt and later on the first African Secretary-General of the U.N., and Adebayo Adedeji, the former Executive Secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, included a stopover at the University Hill in their schedule whenever they happened to be in Dar es Salaam. Yoweri Museveni, a few months before he marched into Kampala, went to the university campus to see his old friends; and on his first state visit to Tanzania, he went to deliver a public lecture at the university. The Rivonia heroes, after their release from Robben Island prison, passed through Dar es Salaam on their way to Sweden to meet Oliver Tambo, and they came to the university to talk to the community.
Many academics have achieved fame from intellectual works they produced while in Dar es Salaam. Walter Rodney’s legendary book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, that of Clive Thomas, On Problems of Transition, and Tamás Szentes’ classic, The Political Economy of Underdevelopment, were all written in Dar es Salaam. The university was not only a haven for radical scholars and activists; the students also found it an exciting and productive experience. Issa Shivji, in his student days, had already produced Tanzania: The Silent Class Struggle; and the current President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, Kapote Mwakasungura who later on became Malawian High Commissioner to Zimbabwe, Salim Msoma, the present Principal Secretary in the Tanzania Ministry of Transport and Communications, and Andrew Shija who after graduation joined the Tanzania Army, left their classrooms and joined FRELIMO cadres in the liberated areas of Portuguese-ruled Mozambique. A Canadian political scientist, John Saul, when teaching at Dar es Salaam University, did the same thing. The students’ journal, Cheche [The Spark], subsequently Maji Maji, was very much sought after, and the teaching staff vied with each other to have their articles published in it.
From its inception in 1961 as a university college until 1985 when he stepped down as the Chancellor, Mwalimu Nyerere played an important role in the shaping of the university, and took a keen personal interest in its intellectual development. I do not think there was any national institution that he visited as many times as the university.
Mwalimu Nyerere was born on 13th April 1922 in the small village of Butiama among a minority ethnic group in Tanzania. He grew up in typical African village surroundings, and later on in life became the embodiment of the African struggle for freedom and national independence and a symbol of people’s aspirations for social emancipation and human fulfilment. It was at the age of 12 that he started going to school, and only after coming of age was he confirmed to Christianity. From Tabora School, the citadel of African education at the time in the then Tanganyika, he then proceeded to Makerere College in Uganda to acquire a Diploma in Education. Makerere was at that time the highest institution of learning in East Africa, and constituted an important period for Mwalimu Nyerere in formulating the objectives and principles that guided him later on in his life. After he left Makerere, he stated the following:
While I was at Makerere I understood that my Government was spending annually something in the neighbourhood of 80 pounds on my behalf. But that did not mean very much to me: after all, 80 pounds is only a minute fraction of the total amount which is collected every year from the African tax-payers. But today that 80 pounds has grown to mean a very great deal to me. It is not only a precious gift but a debt that I can never repay.
I wonder whether it has ever occurred to many of us that while that 80 pounds was being spent on me (or that matter on any of the past or present students of Makerere) some village dispensary was not being built in my village or some other village. People may actually have died through lack of medicine merely because eighty pounds which could have been spent on a fine village dispensary was spent on me, a mere individual, instead. Because of my presence at the college, (and I did nothing to deserve Makerere) many Aggreys and Booker Washingtons remained illiterate for lack of a school to which they could go because the money which could have gone towards building a school was spent on Nyerere, a rather foolish and irresponsible student at Makerere. My presence at the college therefore deprived the community of the services of all those who might have been trained at those schools, and who might have become Aggreys or Booker Washingtons. How can I repay this debt to the community? …… The community spends all that money upon us because it wants us as lifting levers, and as such we must remain below and bear the whole weight of the masses to be lifted, and we must facilitate that task of lifting.
From Makerere, Mwalimu Nyerere taught briefly before he proceeded to do a Master’s degree in History at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He was the first Tanganyika African to acquire an overseas degree. It was in Edinburgh that his political ideas were crystallised.
Upon his return to the then Tanganyika he taught for some time in the Christian Mission schools before he threw himself fully into the nationalist struggle for independence. The Tanganyika African Association (TAA), founded in 1929 by traders and civil servants in urban areas, was basically a social organisation. Only in 1954 was it transformed into a political one, and was known as a Tanganyika African National Union (TANU); and Nyerere became its President.
As I have stated, Julius Nyerere has dominated the Tanzanian political and intellectual scene for almost five decades, and even now with his death, his influence is still felt. I will try here to briefly look at some of his ideas.
In his Ujamaa - The Basis of African Socialism, Mwalimu Nyerere dismissed the idea that classes had existed in pre-colonial African societies, claiming instead that these societies were living in tranquillity and peace and had experienced no antagonistic contradictions. He felt that it was possible for Africans, regardless of their social backgrounds, to come together in national movements and to retain that unity after independence. He not only dismissed the notion of the existence of classes prior to colonisation but did not see their evolution during the colonial period
In 1967 Tanzania declared its intention to build socialism on the basis of self-reliance. Julius Nyerere was definitely the intellectual power behind the Declaration. In fact Jeanette Hartmann has stated that it was written by Nyerere himself, claiming that she had seen the draft in Mwalimu Nyerere’s handwriting. The Declaration attracted huge attention. To social democrats in Europe this heralded the possibility of seeing the realisation of their ideals in an African set-up. Imperialist powers, on the other hand, were afraid that Tanzania would set up an example to the rest of Africa. From 1967, then, Tanzania’s actions on the domestic and international arenas were judged in accordance with the terms of the Arusha Declaration. Its close relationship with China or its acceptance of aid from the then socialist countries of Eastern Europe was seen as tendencies to further integrate Tanzania within the socialist orbit. But, as Julius Nyerere kept reiterating, the Arusha Declaration should have been viewed as a statement of intent. Neither in 1967 nor in 1985 when he stepped down from the Presidency was Tanzania a socialist state.
The Declaration was not without flaws and its implementation had been far from successful. There were reasons for this; but as a blueprint for development, it was something unique in Africa at that time. It was assertive and provided great hopes for millions of Tanzanians. In another paper – Socialism: The Rational Choice – Mwalimu argued that for a country like Tanzania, socialism was the only choice, but even if it wanted to build capitalism, that option was closed to it.
What Mwalimu Nyerere succeeded in doing was to put socialism on the national agenda. One cannot therefore agree with Ali Mazrui and many others who say that socialism was a ‘heroic failure’ in Tanzania. The Wall Street Journal declared:
“He fused Tanzania’s 120 tribes into a cohesive state, preventing tribal conflicts plaguing so much of Africa … Above all, he proved that it is possible to forge a nation whereby vicissitudes of ethnic affiliation are banished from social and political life. He created and promoted a powerful lingua franca, Swahili, which united and educated people”.
He preached racial and religious tolerance. Following Mwalimu Nyerere’s departure from political power, the country collapsed into the arms of the IMF and the World Bank. When he left the per capita income was US$280. In 1998, thirteen years after he left, it was US$140; and school enrolment plummeted to 63%. Some of the progressive achievements of the Nyerere era are being eroded, but he will definitely be remembered in history as the person who raised the prospect of socialist development in Tanzania.
Tanzania’s contribution on the question of Africa’s liberation is well known. Almost all the liberation movements in Africa had enjoyed sanctuary in Tanzania. The OAU Liberation Committee had its headquarters in Dar es Salaam from the time the OAU was established in 1963. Julius Nyerere cannot be separated from the Tanzania position. It should be remembered that as far back as 1960, when Tanganyika was not even independent, Nyerere published a pamphlet called Barriers to Democracy in which he castigated the white communities in Kenya, the Rhodesias and South Africa for rejecting the concept of a multiracial society based on African majority rule. Also in 1961, just before Tanganyika’s independence, in an article in the London newspaper The Observer, Nyerere made it clear to the British Government that the membership of independent Tanganyika in the Commonwealth will depend on South Africa either ending apartheid or withdrawing from the Commonwealth. Apartheid South Africa decided to withdraw from the Commonwealth.
As stated before, there is no single African liberation movement that did not enjoy the support of Tanzania. FRELIMO was founded in Tanzania; the ANC, after its ban in South Africa, opened its first External Mission in Tanzania; and MOLINACO, MPLA, ZANU, ZAPU, PAC and many others had Tanzania’s full support. In the U.N. Decolonisation Committee (known as the Committee of 24), where Tanzania’s then Permanent Representative to the U.N., Salim Ahmed Salim, held the Chairmanship for several years, and in the Non-Aligned Movement, Tanzania was in the forefront in mobilising support to the liberation struggles.
Tanzania’s support to the liberation movements was not only manifested in the political and diplomatic arenas but also in the material and military fields. The Tanzanian population was mobilised many times to give material support to the liberation movements. The Tanzania People’s Defence Forces trained thousands of military cadres of those liberation movements which wanted that kind of support. Tanzania was used as a facility for either storing or transporting different types of goods to the liberation movements. It is a known fact that several villages along the border with Mozambique were bombed by Portuguese planes during FRELIMO’s struggle for independence. All this testifies to the country’s firm position on the question of African liberation. But again it was Julius Nyerere who was able not only to give an intellectual basis to this position but also to effectively articulate it.
Julius Nyerere was always non-racial in his perspective, and this at times got him into conflict with his colleagues both in the ruling Party and Government. During the days of the struggle for Tanganyika’s independence, he rejected the position of the “Africanists” within TANU who put forward the slogan “Africa for Africans”, meaning black Africans. In 1958 at the TANU National Conference in Tabora when some leaders strongly opposed TANU’s participation in the colonially-proposed tripartite elections, where the voter had to vote for three candidates from the lists of Africans, Asians and Europeans, Julius Nyerere stood firm in recommending acceptance of the proposals. This led to the “Africanists” marching out of TANU and forming the African National Congress. It is extremely worrying that this racist monster is reappearing now in Tanzania. Some politicians in their quest for power are using the racist card, as manifested both at last May’s Chimwaga Congress of the ruling party, CCM, and in the on-going election campaigns. It is very unfortunate that no stern measures are being taken against this trend, thus giving the impression that the country’s leadership is condoning it.
Again, after independence, when a section of the leadership of TANU and that of the trade union movement, the Tanganyika Federation of Labour, were demanding Africanisation of the civil service, Julius Nyerere was talking of Tanganyikanisation, thus giving a non-racial content to the whole idea. His commitment to African Liberation stemmed not only from these anti-racist convictions but also from his strong belief that it is evil and wrong for a foreign power to colonise another people, and that it is equally wrong for a racial minority to oppress a racial majority. Mwalimu Nyerere had never doubted that whites in Zimbabwe or South Africa had the same rights as their black compatriots.
Julius Nyerere believed in peaceful means in the struggle to achieve certain political ends. He tried very much during the Tanganyika independence struggle to steer the independence movement along peaceful lines. Even at those times when the temperature was high and militants either in TANU or TFL were calling for confrontation, Julius Nyerere continued to call for restraint. When, after being convicted of libel in a colonial court, he was faced with the option of going to prison or paying a fine, he chose the latter, not so much because he did not want to be a political prisoner, but because it was felt that in his absence things might go wrong and violence might erupt.
However, when faced with a situation where all peaceful means were closed, Mwalimu Nyerere never hesitated to advocate the use of violence against an oppressive regime. A few months before Britain handed over power to the Sultan’s regime in Zanzibar, he appealed to the British Government, through its Colonial Secretary, to reconsider its intention because he felt that if the situation was not rectified to allow the majority to peacefully take over power, then violence was inevitable. And on this he was right, because four weeks after independence the Sultan’s regime was violently overthrown by opposition parties. Again, when nationalists in Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, the then Southern Rhodesia and South Africa were forced to take up arms against colonial and apartheid regimes, Mwalimu Nyerere committed both Tanzanian resources and his own personal prestige in helping the liberation movements to engage in the armed struggle, and found this to be in no contradiction with his non-violence convictions.
Mwalimu Nyerere’s last visit to the University of Dar es Salaam was in December 1997 when he came to take part in the international conference on Reflections on Leadership in Africa – Forty Years after Independence. The conference was in honour of his 75th Birthday and was organised jointly by the Institute of Development Studies of the University of Dar es Salaam and the http://www.pambazuka.org/images/articles/452/nyerere%27s-legacy.gif
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* The late Haroub Othman was professor of Development Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam.
* This lecture is reproduced here by permission and will be published in Othman's forthcoming book.
* This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
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