Xolela Mangcu is Professor of Sociology at the University of Cape Town. He is the winner of the Harry Oppenheimer Fellow, South Africa's most prestigious academic award. He was also an Oppenheimer Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Studies at Harvard and the Emeka Anyaoku Fellow at the Institute for Commonwealth Studies at the University of London. Mangcu is the author and co-author of nine books. His biography of Steve Biko, "Biko: A Life", won the University of Cape Town's Meritorious Book Award (2014). South Africa's Sunday Times has described him as "possibly South Africa's most prolific public intellectual."


Project Summary

This biography of Nelson Mandela, the first by a black African in South Africa- provides a new explanation of the South African leader's political leadership.While most biographies ascribe Mandela's leadership to the traditional influence of his guardian, Chief Jongintaba, this biography looks at Mandela as the hybrid product of colonial indirect rule in the Transkei, the leading role of his Thembu royal family in the administration of that system, and his upbringing and education as a "Black Englishman" at the British mission schools. These colonial-Victorian influences stood in tension with the African nationalism of Thembuland and the African National Congress in the 1940's. The book argues that living with these conflicting cultural and political influences became the basis of Mandela's political pragmatism. Growing up in a part of the country that was saved from the jackboot racism that prevailed in the rest of South Africa also enabled Mandela to have what I once described as a "rather generous interpretation of the racial situation" in South Africa.


Major Publications