It is with great sadness and a deep sense of loss that the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, CODESRIA, announces the passing away of Professor Thandika Mkandawire on March 27, 2020. Thandika as he was fondly known was a brilliant economist and prodigious scholar whose works on African political economy challenged dominant ways of seeing the African continent on a wide range of issues that included structural adjustment and economic reform, democratic politics, neopatrimonialism and insurgent violence. Thandika was a very dedicated member of CODESRIA. He led the Council as its Executive Secretary from 1985 to 1996 and continued to play important roles in the life of the organization after moving on to head UNRISD and later taking on a distinguished professorship at the London School of Economics. From 2015-2016, he led the internal review of CODESRIA’s governance and membership whose recommendations underpin an ambitious process of reform that the Council is undertaking. On April 11-13, 2016 CODESRIA organized a conference in Lilongwe, Malawi with the theme “Thinking African, Epistemological Issues: Celebrating the Life and Work of Thandika Mkandawire” in his honor.
With the death of Dr FRS de Souza in London on 2 March 2020, the curtain has been finally drawn on the career of one of the most distinguished Kenyan nationalists of Asian descent, a human rights advocate long before that term came into use, an opponent of racial discrimination under colonialism and after, and above all a decent human being. Born in Mumbai, brought up in Zanzibar and Kenya, qualifying as a barrister and earning a doctorate in London, a frequent visitor to Goa, ‘Fitz’ was a citizen of the world. But Kenya was always his home - the country to which he dedicated all his working life and whose people he loved and deeply cared for. Because his widely-covered memoir, Forward to Independence, published just months before his death, includes a lot of his background, upbringing and education (from Zanzibar, Magadi, Nairobi and London), his strong opposition to racial discrimination, his legal defence of Kenyan nationalists like the ‘Kapenguria Six’, his relationship with Jomo Kenyatta and other independence movement leaders like Oginga Odinga, Tom Mboya and Pio Gama Pinto - many will still be unfamiliar with his support and friendship for ordinary Kenyans down the hierarchy during the independence struggle and after; for Fitz maintained loyalty to his friends regardless of their social status.
On 18 November 2007, I served as a translator for him (English to Kikuyu) as he addressed several thousand mourners at Dagoretti, just out of Nairobi and historically part of Kiambu. It was at the funeral of my uncle, Senior Chief John Kinuthia, a nationalist-activist of the 1950s who had served as a law clerk at De Souza’s law firm at Bohra (now Lagos) Road in Nairobi at the height of the Mau Mau war. Frankly, we were not expecting him but he had read the obituary in the newspaper and decided he must come. He told us the story of his relationship over that period with a young John Kinuthia, and with my grandfather’s younger brother—the well-known nationalist Justus Mugo Muratha - with the same vivid clarity you find in the book. Most of what he said was new to us, and signifies how underrated has been the Kenyan-Asian contribution to Kenya’s independence struggle, and that Fitz was a humanist before he was a lawyer.
Remembering Marcelino dos Santos, founder of Frelimo and the former Vice President of the People’s Republic of Mozambique.
In February 2020, Mozambican liberation leader and national hero Marcelino dos Santos (90) was laid to rest alongside Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel in Maputo’s Heroes’ Square. His death severs the last tie between the ruling party Frelimo (Mozambique Liberation Front) and its socialist revolutionary past. Whether this break offers an opportunity for the resurgence of a progressive political movement outside of the confines of Frelimo, remains to be seen. Towards the end of his life, Dos Santos was searching for an alternative political project but ultimately remained loyal to Frelimo until his death.
Dos Santos, or Kalungano as he is affectionately known, was born in Nampula in 1929. He paid his way through secondary school in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) by working in a factory, and it was there that he was exposed firsthand to the racist violence of the labour regime under Portuguese colonial fascism. That experience planted in him the seed of nationalism, which he would nurture during more than 25 years in exile, returning to Mozambique as an avowed Marxist-Leninist.
Initially, Dos Santos left to pursue an engineering degree in Portugal. There, he met fellow nationalists Amílcar Cabral (Guinea Bissau) and the Angolans, Agostinho Neto and Mário Pinto de Andrade, among others. Their cultural and political activism soon caught the attention of the Portuguese secret service, PIDE, forcing him to flee to France in 1951. At the time, France was a hub of African revolutionary activity, and it was there that he was introduced to likes of Aimé Cesaire, W E B Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Raficq Sheikh Abdulla passed away peacefully at home in London, England on 19 December 2019 in the presence of his loved ones, finally succumbing to cancer.
Despite being faced by the inevitability of death, Raficq carried on with the dogged determination that had characterised his life as a Muslim mystic, Oxbridge-educated lawyer, educator, writer, poet, and inter-faith and community activist. It seemed as if he was challenging Malak ul-Mawt (the Angel of Death) to give him a few more years grace because he was not yet ready to meet his Creator. He was too young, even at the age of 79, and had much unfinished business pertaining especially to his close family, his poetry, his other writing and, of course, his friends.
Raficq was born in Durban, South Africa in 1940 to businessman Sheik Abdulla, a scion of a prominent local Indian family, and Dr Moseda Ismail, a ‘proto-feminist’ trendsetter from a prominent Cape Malay family, who herself was the granddaughter of two imams – one of whom was sent to the Cape by Sultan Abdulhamid II of the Ottoman Empire.
Both of Raficq’s parents played a seminal role in his life. Moseda came from a prominent medical family. Her audacity and courage was underlined by her defiance of a local Muslim community convention to become the first Muslim woman in the Western Cape, if not South Africa, to study medicine at Edinburgh University in 1927, where she also went on to specialise as a gynaecologist. In this endeavour she was supported by the veteran Cape political leader, Dr Abdullah Abdurrahman, who very much influenced her and facilitated her study at his alma mater. It was during her time in the UK that Moseda met her first husband, Dr Goolam Gool, who graduated from Guy’s Hospital Medical School. Moseda and Goolam had one son, Reshard, who became an academic in Canada and a novelist who authored the book Cape Town Coolie.