By Francis Kagolo
Renowned scholar, Prof. Mahmood Mamadani, is one of the six African personalities to receive honorary degrees from the University of KwaZulu-Natal for his outstanding contribution in the academia.
KwaZulu-Natal, based in South Africa, is the 8th best university in Africa, according to Webometrics rankings released last week.
Mamdani, currently the director of Makerere university institute of social research (MISR), was chosen for his “outstanding academic record as a scholar,” the university said in a statement.
He is slated to get the award in April alongside the “Princess of Africa”, musician Yvonne Chaka Chaka, birdman Hugh Chittenden and Zuleikha Mayat, the woman synonymous with the cookbook Indian Delights.
The sixth is Thudiso Gcabashe, a community worker in South Africa, who has distinguished herself through contributions to youth development and society at large, in religion, poverty alleviation and community health.
Prof. Mamdani, once described as “perhaps the greatest living African scholar” would be “recognized for his contribution in reclaiming Africa’s contribution to the global knowledge project and in knowledge generation in and out of Africa”, the university said.
Mamdani, a Ugandan of Indian origin, received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1974 and specializes in African history and politics. His book, Politics and Class Formation, is considered one of the most informative and authoritative political treatise on Uganda.
He is a professor of government in the department of anthropology and political science and the school of international and public affairs at Columbia University, where he was also director of the Institute of African Studies from 1999 to 2004.
He has taught at the University of Dar-es-Salaam (1973–79), Makerere University (1980–93), and University of Cape Town (1996–99) and was the founding director of Centre for Basic Research (CBR) in Kampala, Uganda (1987–96).
He first joined Makerere in 1972. When former president Idi Amin turned against Asians, he left and took up a post of senior lecturer at the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.
He returned to Makerere in 1980 after Amin had been toppled. But he got into trouble with the Obote II regime that attempted to expel him for publishing articles critical of the government’s policies.
At Makerere, Mamdani published widely and rose from a junior position of political science teaching assistant to become an associate professor in 1984.
He left Makerere in 1993 to set up and head the Centre for Basic Research in Kampala, before joining Columbia University in New York where he has been serving till 2010 when he was appointed MISR director.
In 2007, he published a book, Scholars in the Market Place, which caused unease within Makerere University’s administration.
The book criticized the commercialization of university education in Uganda and the lack of academic research and publications by professors. He accused the university of duplicating courses for the sake of generating revenues from private students.