Prof Makgoba’s candid memoir chronicles Leadership and Transformation in South Africa’s democracy

Professor Malegapuru Makgoba

He was the first black Deputy Vice-Chancellor of one of South Africa’s English-language and metropolitan universities. He later joined the South African Medical Research Council, which he headed between 1999 and 2002, and was involved in developing South Africa’s AIDS strategy and the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative. More recently, he was the health ombudsman tasked with investigating the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

Now, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba has released a tell-all book, titled Leadership for Transformation since the Dawn of South Africa’s Democracy: An insider’s view. In it, he reflects on his experience of South Africa’s transformation for over 29 years since his return to the country after working for 13 years in the UK.

The launch was held at The Kerzner Building in the School of Tourism and Hospitality at the Auckland Park Bunting Road campus of the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Speaking at the launch on 06 September 2023, Professor Makgoba said the journey to getting the book together covers a generation- a term that also exists in the field of genetics and biology, which is his specialty.

The generational odyssey: Prof. Makgoba’s perspective on South Africa’s progress

“The book is to me a personal story of experiences. Its experiences, observations, and reflections and/or critique, over a 29-year period of South Africa’s democracy. I came here in August 1994, and this book is produced just at the end of August 2023. In my own specialty, it corresponds to a generation in genetics or biology. It is defined as a period where parents give birth to children, and children start to also make children.

So, we are talking of a period between 25 and 30 years. Its funny how this period in other forms of life requires a reflection and say, ‘what have we achieved in 25 or 30 years?’ An Odyssey captures a long journey, trials, and tribulations, and that is what this book captures.

Prof Makgoba offers a no-holds-barred approach in the book, tackling everything from his time as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of one of South Africa’s English-language and metropolitan universities and the controversy that took place then; to the battle he waged as the head of the Medical Research Council during the AIDS denialism years. In sharing these reflections, he provides a front row seat to not only his thoughts in these crucial times in South Africa’s history, but also offers key lessons on leadership from his own experiences. He has served under all South Africa’s presidents since the democratic dispensation and shares anecdotes from these times as well.

(L-R) Professor Makgoba (centre, Black cardigan) is pictured with Dr Ralph Mathekga, Professor Glenda Gray, Professor Chris Landsberg, Professor Sipho Seepe and Dr Mothobi Mutloatse at the launch of his book at the APB Campus. Picture: The Visual Studio

High praise from peers

Long-time collaborator and friend Professor Chris Landsberg congratulated Prof Makgoba on what he called ‘a book with riveting narratives, a masterpiece’.

Prof Landsberg, who is the SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy and head of the Centre for African Diplomacy and Leadership (located within the SARChI Chair) that hosted the launch,  further described the book as timely.

“What makes Professor Makgoba’s book so fascinating is that is timely by a man who worked with leaders at the highest levels in government and in the public sphere. It is almost a bird eye-view, an in-dept view. There is a very surprising narrative hidden on the book. It is about time that we take leadership out of schools of Business and MBA and bring it into political affairs schools and spheres. The book is about bringing political leadership back onto the debate and not only by talking about it but theorizing about it and backing it up with evidence and empirical data.”

*The book is published by Dr Mothobi Mutloatse, Skotaville Publishers.

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