Monday, February 2, 2015


By O Bolaji

It was around this time a year ago that Mbulelo Mzamane, outstanding
academic, writer, intellectual et al, breathed his last. But his legacy ineluctably and necessarily lives on.

On my own part, when I think about him my mind goes to his sparkling, generous, amiable personality, the genuine camaraderie; laughs, smiles, the complement of authentic ebullience that always surrounded him. And of course the humour.

Read his works, especially the fiction and savour the thread of effulgent humour that runs through them. This is no way attenuates the sterling quality of his assorted writing; he was a man who despite being a world class academic and intellectual nevertheless had his feet firmly on the ground.

Mzamane was recognised for his brilliance in his sphere, and spent a large part of his life travelling the world and lecturing from one country to another. Yet he possessed large dollops of ubuntu which made him appear larger than life.

Although I met the man only intermittently (once in a blue moon would be more appropriate), I can not forget his generous eclectic spirit. It was almost 20 years ago when I met him in person for the first time; I was new in South Africa, and chanced to be at Fort Hare University in Alice (Eastern Cape). In those days I used to often carry around a file that contained about 100 short stories I had published during an early spell of my "writing career".

An academic at the University of Fort Hare one day briefly took me to
Mzamane's office and introduced me to him. The great man went through
my file, chuckling intermittently. "You wrote all these stories, young man? ... Yes, I can see your name on each of them..."

Presently he said: "You have done very well. I can't appraise them critically of course, as I just glanced through them. You like interesting, shall we
say, unusual titles eh?" He laughed uproariously...

I must confess that at the time I did not fully realise how much of a literary icon professor  Mzamane was - he was to add even more cubits to his awesome reputation over the years - but my initial positive impression of the man was cemented later on whenever one met him at literary events, occasions, awards, festivals and the like.

Aside from his own published works, Mzamane's generosity of spirit is shown by the way and manner he skillfully edited a large number of other manuscripts and books - for other important writers - over the years. Those interested in this aspect of his life (and work) are urged to do more research in this wise!

The late great man also respected women a great deal, and it is on record that he often paid tribute to his "wonderful wife", and added that he would want to write things like poems and essays in her honour.

I remember him once saying that "the women in my life are in no way inferior; in fact they are the opposite - my wife, my daughters, they challenge me intellectually every time. Africa does not know what it is losing whenever our women are suppressed..." A remarkable man indeed, Mbulelo Mzamane. Continue to rest in peace....

Published works of Mbulelo Mzamane
Mzala: The Short Stories of Mbulelo Mzamane (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1980).
My Cousin Comes to Jo'burg (Harlow: Longman, 1981).
The Children of Soweto : A Trilogy (Harlow: Longman, 1982).
The Children of the Diaspora and Other Stories of Exile (Western Cape: Vivlia Publishers, 1996).
Where there is no vision the people perish: Reflections on the African Renaissance (University of South Australia: Hawke Institute, 2001).
The Race Between the Turtles and Cheetahs (Children's Book) (Canberra, The Australian National University: The Herbert and Valmae Freilich Foundation, 2004).
Children of Paradise (UKZN Press, 2011).

Of Minks and Men and Other Stories of Our Transition and The Mbeki Turn: South Africa after Mandela (Lambert Academic Publishing, 2013).

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