25 September 2013 Volume :1 Issue :3

First isiZulu John Langalibalele (Mafukuzela) Dube Memorial Lecture

First isiZulu John Langalibalele (Mafukuzela) Dube Memorial Lecture
Professor Cheryl Potgieter (third right); Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo (centre) and Dr Velaphi Mkhize (second left) with College of Humanities staff.

The College of Humanities, the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC), and the JL Dube Chair in Rural Education in the School of Education presented the 10th Annual Memorial John Langalibalele (Mafukuzela) Dube Lecture in isiZulu - a first for UKZN with simulteneous English translations being provided.

Academics, students and prominent guests, including the MEC for Health in KwaZulu-Natal,

Dr Sibongiseni Maxwell Dhlomo, were welcomed warmly by Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter.

The Lecture, delivered by the President and founder of the Umsamo Institute and South African Healers Association, Dr Velaphi (VVO) Mkhize,  was titled: “Mafukuzela and the Remedy for the Zulu Language: Sharing the Riches of the Language in Tertiary Institutions”.

Speaking at the Lecture, Mkhize said: ‘The protection of our indigenous languages is of urgent importance. IsiZulu is a cultural pillar and to protect, it determines  who we are. By protecting the language, we are also protecting our traditions and historical treasures. Because of the diminishing importance of indigenous languages, we are at risk of losing out on the verbal transfer of knowledge from generation to generation. This will impact negatively on isiZulu culture, if it is left uncontrolled.’

He pointed out that the advancement of the indigenous languages required hard work. ‘Let us be frank, we need to launch research projects in the Humanities in isiZulu, make research documents available in isiZulu, and cultivate and nurture the language. UKZN has taken a decisive step in this direction. Some have voiced critique but have since changed their views. We are happy that UKZN has embarked on this project over a period of time already and ignored the criticisms and complaints.’

Mkhize suggested that future generations should have the right to share in the riches of their indigenous languages. Funds should be set aside for research projects in isiZulu, and young people should be encouraged to do research in the indigenous languages. In addition, government, legal, and other significant institutional documents, should be translated into African languages.

Reflecting on the introduction of isiZulu in undergraduate degrees, he said: ‘The University has taken a step that each student, irrespective of the field of study, should learn the isiZulu language; that is an achievement. I say this is an achievement because this means that students will get a chance to learn to use IsiZulu within each of their disciplines.

‘He said choosing isiZulu reflected the enthusiasm and support of the academic community for future academics and intellectuals to know their background and their roots. This would impact positively on their sense of identity as well as international relationships.’

In closing, Mkhize said, ‘Preserving the language for the next generation is in our hands; us doctors and professors. This needs a lot of courage and commitment under challenging circumstances. Tertiary institutions, chancellors and their respective committees, should not only focus on how to improve research but also look at how the local languages could be developed intellectually.’

-          Melissa Mungroo


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