Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

South Africa

Remembering Bubele Mahanjana

Bubele Mahanjana, the young scholar and economics lecturer at Wits University was a rare type of a person in a world which values crass materialism over the life of ideas. Very few people of my generation are moved, inspired and troubled by ideas to the extent they affected Bubele. He so much loved ideas that he sacrificed a fledging career in an internationally renowned accounting firm for the lonely, modest life of a university student. His untimely death met him whilst completing his Masters Degree in Economics at Wits.

A group of us have known Bubele as a brilliant thinker, a persuasive conversationalist and humorous individual. A debate with Bubele always lingered on long after the encounter. He forced us to think. He was so moved by a good debate that he was wont to jumping to his feet, raising his voice without threatening as he systematically developed his argument. At times too patiently for the impatient generation characterised by instant gratification and cosmetic intellectualism.

Whilst he had the aura of the distant professor, he carried with him a capacity to make us laugh hard, at our selves and the follies of life. One of his well remembered jokes was when he asked someone whether she was a nurse, because she had been nursing her drink for the whole evening.

What made Bubele a potential giant, was the fact that he combined his love for ideas with deep commitment to finding solutions for the problems which affect Black people and the African continent itself. Towards the end of his life he was becoming radicalised in his analysis and began to display signs of impatience with Africa’s progress and the direction of South Africa’s transition. He reserved the most scathing analysis for the African intellectual, following Frantz Fanon. On post colonial Africa and liberation he agreed with the Nigerian radical writer Chinwezu that Africa is weak, hence her position of being a play ground for foreign countries through her local elites. Bubele wrote,

“It is dealing with weakness and powerlessness of the African that is key. Everything else is nonsense. Admit that you are weak. Understand how you are weak. Rectify your weakness. This is the only path to salvation”.


He complained bitterly about the BEE-inspired [Black Economic Empowerment] useless black intellectuals, he said we complain to each other and thereby become superfluous. In a clarion call kind of way in one of his last emails he stated that until the intellectual class “put itself to school with the masses” it will remain useless. Curiously he posited the people as the “decision makers” who are the bearers of any change for the better, and he concluded with a sense of disappointment in the black educated classes including his friends,

“you guys” he wrote “with all your knowledge cannot influence the decision makers, i.e the poor, the destitute, the filthy and stinking, the great unwashed”.

He lamented the occasional rousing of the people and then not following through with meaningful action to effect change. This was a man who castigated dogmatism and adherence to backward elements of culture but at the same time understood the importance of promoting the languages of the people.

He wondered how the intellectual class hoped to communicate with the poor and excluded if it did not write in their languages. South Africa and posterity has lost a young promising black intellectual who had his heart and head firmly rooted in the people. A true unassuming son of the soil. Let the debate rage beyond the grave as you engage the Bikos, Cabrals and Makanas amongst others.

Hamba kakuhle Lubelo Bubele will be buried at the village named Tsholomngqa near East London this Saturday.

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2 Comments

  1. Hamba kahle Bubele

  2. Malibongwe

    I wish I knew him!