Dear Dr Murunga,
Greetings from South Africa, during a difficult time for our continent and the world. As we all deal with the health, social, economic, and political challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to take this opportunity to wish you, your family and CODESRIA family great health and peace.
On behalf of the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS), please also accept my heartfelt condolences on the passing of a great African intellectual; brilliant economist and a warm, caring and witty human being. We knew, respected and loved Professor Thandika Mkandawire.
As sister institutions dedicated to advancing the humanities and social sciences in Africa; CODESRIA and the NIHSS have been close intellectual companions. Together championing projects that have opened new vistas in pan-African scholarship. Initiatives such as the African Pathways Doctoral Scholarship Programme, which we undertook collaboratively, epitomise the spirit of African scholarship that Professor Mkandawire held so dear: rigorous, progressive, inquisitive, committed, transformative, inclusive and contextually grounded – always contextually grounded.
Prof Mkandawire was such a role model, in Africa and internationally. Through his work with CODESRIA and the United Nations Research Institute in Social Development, the University of Zimbabwe, University of Cape Town and London School of Economics, he was without a doubt one of the most influential political economists of his time, helping to fundamentally reshape the African narrative. As our Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande reflected, “Mkandawire and his generation of progressive African scholars were in many ways trailblazers who understood that the struggle for complete independence of the African countries was simultaneously a struggle against underdevelopment, just as we must understand today that the struggle against Covid-19 must simultaneously be a struggle against all forms of inequality!” (See attached Dr Nzimande’s Tribute to Prof Mkandawire, as posted on our website)
One of the many abiding lessons I learnt from my avid readings of Thandika’s work was to adopt a healthy scepticism of the glib, simplistic explanations of African political economics propounded by mainstream academia and to see the multidimensionality of this unique continent.
Despite his influence and impact, Prof Mkandawire remained humble and grounded. I wonder what he would say now if he had an inkling of the outpouring of loss and tribute from far and wide that has followed his passing. It was an honour and a privilege to have known and learnt from this remarkable African scholar. His work lives on. Once the pain of his passing has receded, the legacy he has left will be balm for our hearts and minds as we carry forward the work that meant so much to him and to us.
It will be great for the NIHSS and CODESRIA to work together on an initiative to honour Prof Mkandawire. Alternatively, the NIHSS will also support any initiative already planned by CODESRIA.
I hope to see you very soon.