It is with great sadness that I learned of the recent passing away of Professor Sibonginkosi Mazibuko, who until his death was the Chair, Department of Development Studies, University of South Africa, UNISA. Late Prof Mazibuko was my supervisor when I was studying for my doctorate at the University of South Africa and his contributions to my academic success are unforgettable. I write with fond memories and deep sorrow this tribute to my teacher, professor, friend and extraordinary mentor. I call him Boss.
It was a great privilege to learn under a great Pan-Africanist scholar and yet a patient teacher. My writings were unappealing until Prof Mazibuko taught me about critical writing and the importance of having a clear theoretical framework, which is my lens of viewing issues. I suddenly realized my view was too neutral or rather too Eurocentric (caused by my several years of Western colonial education) to produce any critical knowledge. I borrowed Prof Mazibuko’s Afrocentric lens and I saw clearly. Through Prof Mazibuko, I had the opportunity to meet and listen to famous Pan- Africanist and Afrocentric scholars like Prof Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Prof Molefi Asante. He also ensured I attended decoloniality conferences. By the end of my study, I had become fully immersed in Afrocentricity and decoloniality to defend African interests anywhere.
Prof Mazibuko was kind. I was an international student from Nigeria and my supervisor contributed to my memorable stay in South Africa. Through him, I learned the meaning of Ubuntu. I was particularly on study leave and must soon return to work. Prof Mazibuko understood my situation and cooperated with me to complete my study on time. When I submitted to him any chapter, he often reverted to me within 2-4 days! When I shared my challenges with him, he understood and often used his life experiences to encourage me to push harder through life’s difficulty. After my graduation, Prof Mazibuko had connected me with people and associations that could better reveal the scholar he had developed in me. Nevertheless, Prof was a strict teacher, which forced his students to keep to a high standard and this has helped me to become responsible, professional, and disciplined in my career.
Most importantly, through Prof Mazibuko, I learned about the beautiful land of Mzansi, its turbulent history, its heroes like Robert Sobukwe and its loving people.
I am back in Nigeria and based on my experience with Prof Mazibuko, I can proudly say that South Africans are not xenophobic. I have always been in touch with Prof, he told me when he tested positive for the notorious Covid-19 but he was optimistic. I was devastated when I heard he lost his battle against the novel virus. I still cannot decipher that I will see my academic mentor no more.
Prof Mazibuko used to talk about his family a lot and there is no doubt this is a difficult time for them. Moreover, his demise is undoubtedly a great loss to the University of South Africa and to the Department of Development Studies in particular. Truly, death took Zakes from us in a rude and shocking manner, but our solace is that Prof Mazibuko’s scholarly works are available with us and I have no doubt his books will continue to make great impacts.
Please accept my deepest condolences.
(Dr. Oyindamola Adejumo-Ayibiowu is a development economist as well as a gospel artiste. She is the daughter of Nigerian foremost comedian Moses Olaiya Adejumo, popularly known as Baba Sala)