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  • The Decolonial Mandela: Peace, Justice and the Politics of Life by Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni
  • Nick Mdika Tembo (bio)
The Decolonial Mandela: Peace, Justice and the Politics of Life
Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni
Berghahn Books, 2016, 186 pp. ISBN 978-1785331183, $150 hardcover, $24.95 paperback.

Using decolonial philosopher Nelson Maldonaldo-Torres's conception of the "third humanist revolution," and the fundamental principles of decolonial humanism and pluriversalism, Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni's The Decolonial Mandela: Peace, Justice and the Politics of Life proposes the "Mandela phenomenon" as an Afrocentric episteme that could help reposition Africa in the world. The author avers that since time immemorial blacks have been pushed by the consequences of imperial reason—imperialism, colonialism, apartheid, neocolonialism and underdevelopment (xv)—to inhabit what Frantz Fanon calls the "zone of non-being." Imperial reasoning is a constitutive part of what Ramón Grosfoguel once described as the myth of modernity, a self-generated and insulated Eurocentric modernity, "which develops on its own without depending on any one else on earth" (89). Grosfoguel reinforces his argument by stating that imperial reasoning is solipsistic in nature:

Without solipsism, there can be no myth of a subject with universal rationality that confirms itself as such. We see here the beginning of the ego-politics of knowledge [. . .], which is nothing less than a secularization of the Christian cosmology of the theo-politics of knowledge. In the ego-politics of knowledge, the subject of enunciation is erased, hidden, camouflaged by what Santiago Castro-Gómez has called zero-point philosophy.


Understood from a critical decolonial perspective, the myth of modernity is the nerve center of Cartesian logic, an ego-politics of knowledge in which the nonwhite/black seems to have, according to Ndlovu-Gatsheni, "endured the consequences of being a racialized and dehumanized subject as well as being written out of the human ocumene and being reduced to dispensability" (12). [End Page 426]

From its emergence, decolonial humanism quickly registered on the radar of critical theorizations of Blackness, Africanness, and Black solidarities, and Ndlovu-Gatsheni's monograph is only the latest in a long list of Afrocentric "initiatives and ideological/intellectual/political creations [such] as Garveyism, Ethiopianism, Négritude, African Personality, Conscienscism, Pan-Africanism, African Socialism, and Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), right up to the revived African Renaissance, [that] were produced within the context and course of African decolonial humanist struggle" (13–14). This critical thinking is from the Global South in general and Africa in particular, led by thinkers whose societies have experienced what Enrique Dussel calls "the underside of modernity."

Ndlovu-Gatsheni's narrative is in harmony with decolonial perspectives in several respects. Central in The Decolonial Mandela is what Catherine Walsh calls decoloniality's ability "to make visible, open up, and advance radically distinct perspectives and positionalities that displace Western rationality as the only framework and possibility of existence, analysis, and thought" (17). Ndlovu-Gatsheni advances radically distinct perspectives and positionalities through his proposition of an analytical standpoint and coordinates that can galvanize an African decolonial body of thought, called the "Mandela phenomenon," which, in essence, is a "new reading of Mandela's political life and legacy informed by a critical decolonial ethics of liberation" (xvi). In Ndlovu-Gatsheni's view, this critical decolonial ethics of liberation,

privileges [the] paradigm of peace, humanism, and racial harmony as opposed to the imperial/colonial/apartheid paradigm of war and racial hatred. At the core of critical decolonial ethics of liberation is the unmasking of an imperial/colonial/ apartheid system that was driven by the logic of racial profiling, and the classification and hierarchization of human beings. It resulted in the denial of the humanity of black people and enabled enslavement, conquest, colonization, dispossession, exploitation, and notions of impossibility of co-presence of human races.


Ndlovu-Gatsheni asserts that the "Mandela phenomenon" is "an authentically African invention and achievement that emerged and crystallised in the course of the anti-imperial, anti-colonial, anti-apartheid and anti-global coloniality struggles" (2; emphasis added). I revisit this assertion shortly. My point for now is to show that the author regards Mandela as an exceptional personality fit for scholarly discourse, and that therefore his book...


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