Tribute to Dr. Vuyokazi Mahlati

By Koketso Marishane

We join the global community on land and agrarian rights activists, apolitical rural land for development formations as well as apolitical and social science academic circles in Africa and in the Global South in bereaving the catastrophic transitory of Southern African scholar and veteran, Dr. Vuyo Mahlati in October 2020. Not only did she touch lives, she had the gift and capacity to touch hearts.

Since the mid-2010s, Sis’ Vuyo, as we fondly called her, toiled determinedly on issues of agrarian reform enriching the work of social movements in rural spaces, academics and policy makers through her research, writing, advocacy, and advisory work. As she undeniably became the uncontested African leading expert on land questions, she strove to unite agrarian issues to pecuniary policy, communal policy, environment, and domestic developments to name a few. Not least of all, her collaboration with unapologetic feminist scholars on issues relating to land legislation has helped to centre women’s land rights within land policy agendas on the continent. We may say, the Southern African Development Communities loss is also the African Union loss, for Sis Vuyo had already made projections.

During her work, she emphasised and sought to reverse the impacts of the brutal, inequitable race, gender and neo-colonial relations that frame the lives of the majority agrarian communities and economies of the Global South to this day. She founded numerous initiatives, serviced others in various capacities through which she actively worked to strengthen collaborative scholarship.

The great tree has fallen.

One of Southern Africa’s most esteemed intellectual capital has kicked the ball after long service as a public service leader within the think-tank industry, the Knowledge Management Economy. Dr.VuyoMahlati is missed and will continue being missed by many. The soft-spoken intellectual genius, the well-dressed fashion guru, the gently mannered academic stalwart, and the well-groomed social entrepreneur & gender activist and much, much more. The descriptions may infinitely continue.

She taught us to grow wherever we have been planted.

Amidst her geriatric knowledge and activism, we will also benchmark on her intellectual generosity and accessibility that made her a teacher for many generations of dons and militants. May the African Ancestors Angels Dreamers and Travellers traversing tide open the parley gates of heaven- for their own has arrived… May her legacy continue to sparkle for posterity. May our common struggle for a just world continue, for it is not yet Uhuru. With words borrowed from Ben Okri, “We can re-dream this world and make the dream come real. Human beings are gods hidden from themselves.” May the seeds that were planted within us continue to grow.

Koketso Marishane (African Leadership Institute – Project Phakati member) and Refiloe Nyoni (CEO: Mindful Revolution)) were mentored by Dr.Vuyokazi Mahlati.


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