Statement Of The TMF Patron, Thabo Mbeki, On Accepting An Honorary Doctorate: University Of Dar Es Salaam, 12 November, 2016

Mr Chancellor, Dr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete,
Vice Chancellor, Professor Rwekaza Mukandala,
Chairperson and Members of Council,
Esteemed teaching staff of the University of Dar es Salaam,
Fellow students and workers,
Friends, ladies and gentlemen:

I am privileged to be standing here today to convey my heartfelt thanks to the Chancellor and the Council of the University of Dar es Salaam for the honour bestowed on me by awarding me the Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.

In this context I must confess that I was moved and humbled as I listened to the citation which has just been read, which gives the reasons why the University took the decision it did.

It was also with great emotion that I listened to Chancellor Dr Jakaya Kikwete’s voice over the telephone when he informed me that this eminent African centre of learning and research had decided to award me an Honorary Doctorate, and thereby admit me as an alumnus of the University of Dar es Salaam.

That emotion derived from the fact of our long association of comradeship with the people of this great sister African country, the United Republic of Tanzania, and the role the University of Dar es Salaam played in our upbringing.

As I put down the telephone after speaking to the Chancellor I could not but recall the memory of that outstanding African patriot and leader, whom we followed as our own leader and guide, the late Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, who played a central role in the establishment, growth and development of this University.

I first met Mwalimu Julius Nyerere in September 1962, the year I first stepped foot in the then Tanganyika. That encounter took place at Dar es Salaam airport as I was about to board a plane to fly to England to attend University in that country.

It would of course be a matter of great pride to me if I could tell this important gathering that Mwalimu had come to the airport to see me off.
However the truth is that he and the late Oliver Tambo were at the airport to send off Dr Kenneth Kaunda who was also flying to London in connection with the processes which led to Zambia’s independence in 1964.

In that sense it was by hanging onto Dr Kaunda’s coattails that I was privileged to be sent off by Mwalimu and Oliver Tambo, both of whom requested Dr Kaunda to ensure that I reached my final destination in England.

I have no doubt that there is an umbilical cord which connects my encounter at Dar es Salaam Airport in 1962 with three of Africa’s eminent liberators and my presence here today at the University of Dar es Salaam, 54 years later.

That umbilical cord carried the message that whatever our circumstances in future, we had an obligation we could never betray, to strive for the total liberation of our Continent, for its unity and its renaissance.

Earlier I referred to the vitally important role this University played in our upbringing. I said this because as I grew up as part of the young African intelligentsia, the University of Dar es Salaam taught us what the duties of that intelligentsia were with regard to the historic tasks I have just mentioned – to strive for the total liberation of our Continent, its unity and its renaissance!

I have no doubt that all of us understand and accept that the University could play this role because one of its founding principles was exactly that it should never be an ivory tower, separated from the masses of the people, their challenges and aspirations.

In this context I am certain that this esteemed audience is very familiar with this 1963 statement made by Mwalimu when he was Chancellor of the then University of East Africa, of which the University of Dar es Salaam was a component part.

I request that you allow me to quote this passage in full because of its importance.

As you know, this is what he said:

“For let us be quite clear; the University has not been established purely for prestige purposes. It has a very definite role to play in development in this area, and to do this effectively it must be in, and of, the community it has been established to serve. The University of East Africa has to draw upon experience and ideas from East Africa as well as from the rest of the world. And it must direct its energies particularly towards the needs of East Africa. … In all its research and teaching the University of East Africa must be as
objective and scientific as is humanly possible. It must work against prejudice of all kinds, searching always for that elusive thing – truth. It is in this manner that the University will contribute to our development, because the fight against prejudice is vital for progress in any field. In this fight the University must take an active part, outside as well as inside the walls. […] Yet it […] must be realised that we are in a hurry. We cannot just think, and debate endlessly the pros and cons of any decision. We have to act; we have to tackle … problems now.” (Nyerere 1963: 218-219).

In 2009, the Association of African Universities met at its 12th General Conference and issued its “Abuja Declaration on Sustainable Development in Africa: The Role of Higher Education”.

Despite what Mwalimu Julius Nyerere had said 46 years earlier, this Abuja Declaration still said:

“The real challenges for sustainable development in Africa are the promotion of economic and industrial development, the eradication of poverty, the resolution of conflicts, and the optimum use of its natural resources.

“(And yet) the African Higher Education research agenda tends to focus on purely academic and scientific objectives in order to ensure publication in refereed journals, with little regard to developmental needs because of the “publish or perish” syndrome.

“Most of the research works in Africa are rarely relevant to the search for continental solutions to health, education, water, climate change, energy and food security – all sustainable development indices.

“Where research has been conducted in relevant areas, the findings have remained largely on shelves and unavailable to those who need to take action or implement the often useful recommendations.”

The 1st African Higher Education Summit on Revitalising Higher Education for Africa’s Future, was held in Dakar, Senegal last year, 2015.

Undoubtedly informed in part by what the Association of African Universities had said earlier, it used its own words to restate what Mwalimu Julius Nyerere had stated 52 years earlier, and said:

“African higher education institutions shall commit themselves to the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning, research and scholarship, public service and provision of solutions to the development challenges and opportunities facing African people across the Continent.”

This suggests that the African higher education institutions as a whole have not as yet responded as well as they should have to the clarion call which Mwalimu issued in 1963, successfully to provide the intellectual and professional contributions to help our Continent to achieve its renaissance.

I am certain that this happy occasion of the 46th Graduation Ceremony of the University of Dar es Salaam, which I have been honoured to join today as an alumnus, also serves as our University’s commitment that it will continue to serve as a lodestar to be the kind of institution of higher education of which Mwalimu Julius Nyerere spoke in 1963.

Thank you for your attention.

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