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Read Thabo Mbeki’s Prescient Speech on the Relationship between the State and Universities – from July

Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANCA speech made by former president Thabo Mbeki at the University of Johannesburg in July has taken on new significance in the context of the student protests taking place around the country.

Mbeki was the keynote speaker at the Times Higher Education (THE) Africa Universities Summit at UJ. The theme at the event was “Moving Africa’s universities forward: building a shared global legacy”.

In his talk, Mbeki emphasised the importance of convincing Africa’s “so-called political class” and – vitally – universities that they are at the centre of the development agenda.

Read the Mail & Guardian’s report:

He said when African countries gained their independence from colonialism, universities “were indeed situated at the centre of the African development agenda”.

But then the “healthy relationship between the state and the university was weakened and destroyed” by, in part, “the perception among the African ruling elite that universities were serving as centres of political opposition to this elite”.

“This led to the impoverishment and weakening as well as the marginalisation of the African University from both the State and the development agenda.”

This resulted in many African countries coming to consider expenditure on universities “as a burdensome but unavoidable cost rather than an absolutely necessary and beneficial investment”.

He said African countries needed a clear message from their political leadership.

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