Focus on Ilanga lase Natal newspaper at 2016 Dube Memorial LectureGeneral

UKZN staff and guests with Professor Ntongela Masilela (second left) at the annual John Dube Lecture.UKZN staff and guests with Professor Ntongela Masilela (second left) at the annual John Dube Lecture.

The Ilanga lase Natal (The Natal Sun) newspaper provided the focus for the 2016 John Langalibalele Dube Memorial Lecture which was delivered by renowned South African intellectual and independent scholar, Professor Ntongela Masilela.

UKZN’s School of Education and the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC), in collaboration with the University Language Planning and Development Office, hosted the lecture at the Colin Webb Hall on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

Introducing the Lecture, JL Dube Chair in Rural Education Professor Relebohile Moletsane reflected on the past lectures saying: ‘These lectures have contributed to the dissemination of knowledge and we are grateful to the Dube family for their ongoing support.’

Acting Dean and Head of the School of Education Professor Thabo Msibi added: ‘This lecture is a flagship of the College of Humanities and allows for the engagement of the public discourse and the issues of today. These are important conversations to have and we will continue to provide support to the lecture series.’ 

The lecture, titled: “South African Intellectual and Political Culture Enabled by John Langalibalele Dube in founding Ilanga lase Natal (The Natal Sun) Newspaper in 1903”, conveyed the complex mosaic of this historic formation made possible by Dube’s establishment of the newspaper.

Masilela believes that the fundamental contribution made by Dube to South Africa was in having had the foresight to recognise that a newspaper was one of the principal means for forging and coalescing the making of modern political and cultural consciousness.

Discussing the newspaper’s editors over a 50-year period, Dube’s three enlightening essays and the establishment of the Ohlange Christian Industrial School, Masilela linked this to the New African intellectuals of the New African Movement that Dube was profoundly engaged with and its social and political consequences.

Having abandoned English modernity in favour of the Negro modernity ‘Dube never once deviated from this fundamental conviction in the remaining 34 years of life in politically practising and transforming the conservative New Negro modernity into a conservative New African modernity which he felt was a historical necessity for the betterment of the South African Commonwealth,’ said Masilela.

He pointed out that Dube shifted from pedagogical and religious matters to the sphere of political action largely because of the Natives Land Act as evidenced by five articles he wrote denouncing it in his own newspaper and in Solomon T. Plaatje’s newspaper Tsala ea Batho from August 22, 1913 to July 31, 1914.

‘Dube was and remains a great enigma even today because although he had deep empathy for all his oppressed Black compatriots, he seems not to have understood the deep underlying causes and principles, economic, political and social, of this oppression, and more importantly, the political action that needed to be undertaken to overcome or overthrow the foundation of this oppression,’ claimed Masilela.

‘Dube failed to draw the inevitable political consequences of what he understood intuitively: that the working class would be the fundamental determinant of the new politics in modernity not the chiefs and royal families in the rural areas to whom both Dube and Pixley ka Isaka Seme were unyielding loyal.’

Masilela catalogued the political movement of various Zulu intellectuals and political leaders from the central to the regional, offering an indication of the complexities and contradictions and graphic representation of the complexity in the making of modernity in South Africa.

Concluding, Masilela said: ‘The historical achievements and the political paradoxes of John Langalibalele Dube are what makes him our absolute contemporary in the second decade of the 21st Century.’

Melissa Mungroo