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While historical accounts from books and other mediums generally form the foundation of learning at almost any education institution, first-hand experiences and perspectives can, for their audience, arguably add rare and far more valuable insights into just about any topic.

This was certainly the case at the Senate Hall on Nelson Mandela University’s (NMU) north campus on Wednesday evening, when 96-year-old Mda Mda laid bare his experiences and research on the history of the Transkeian people.

Mda – who continues to enjoy a sharp mind and equally sharp sense of humour, was both the guest of honour and guest speaker at the launch of his book Struggle and Hope, which essentially outlines Transkei history from the late 1800s to the present.

The event – which was held amid NMU’s Africa Week and was hosted in conjunction with the university-based Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism & Democracy (Canrad) dealt, in the main with apartheid’s impact on the region and its people and more particularly the period during which the Transkei, along with other regions such as the Ciswas kei, had been established as socalled “Bantu Homelands” by the government of the day.

The audience of students, Canrad members and academics, among others, also included members of Mda’s family. Mda, who was born in 1923, resides outside of Mthatha

The event was facilitated by NMU historian Professor Nomalanga Mkhize, while the primary respondent for the event fellow historian Dr Denver Webb.

He hailed Mda’s work both as one which will make a valuable contribution to SA history and one which should promote questions, issues and challenges which were not addressed in the negotiations which paved the way for the new democratic dispensation.

Humorously opening his address by a search for his notes, lest he forget the subject of the evening, Mda described the optimal qualities required by leaders – and these included integrity, a sense of honour and sincere contributions to one’s community.

“How many of today’s leaders would pass the test of quality leadership?” he asked.

Mda then talked about the individuals and groups which had assisted the apartheid government to establish what became the Transkei homeland.

This included criticism of politicians, leaders and even former presidents, whom he accused of paying homage to those who had played a part in assisting the apartheid government to establish the homeland. “There were heroes and villains in all of these, this book covers both,” he said, describing the homelands as “shams and insults”.

He later remarked that “the truth must be told, even if it hurts”. With a strong emphasis on land restitution, Mda concluded that it was inevitable and that it should be dealt with sooner rather than later.

“This is not about revenge, but restorative justice,” he said.

Picture on NEWS homepage: WERNER HILLS. WRITE STUFF: Author Mda Mda at the launch of his book ‘Struggle and Hope, Reflections of the Recent history of the Transkeian People’ at the NMU Senate Hall on Wednesday evening

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 23 May 2019 written by Shaun Gillham