Hegemony and Power: South Africa and the Southern African sub-continent, 1965-2005

is a British Academy-funded project at the University of Sheffield, in partnership with the Universities of Pretoria, Swaziland, Zambia and Botswana. It will run from February 2007 until December 2009.

The Project Team Further inquiries should be directed to any of the individual participants:
Professor Ian Phimister [i.phimister@sheffield.ac.uk]
Dr. Juergen Zimmerer [j.zimmerer@sheffield.ac.uk]

Professor Alois Mlambo [alois.mlambo@up.ac.za]
Dr. Lize Kriel [lkriel@postino.up.ac.za]

Dr. Bonginkosi Sikhondze [bosikh@uniswacc.uniswa.sz]

Professor Bizeck Phiri [jube56@yahoo.com]
At the University of Botswana

Professor Ackson Kanduza [kandiuza@mopipi.ub.bw]
Mr. Geoff Barei [bareigb@mopipi.ub.bw]

Project Background and Aims

The British Academy's UK-Africa Academic Partnerships scheme invites scholars from the UK to undertake collaborative research with scholars from Africa on a specific theme of mutual interest.  Such partnerships are intended to build capacity on both sides, especially  through research collaboration.  The Academy suggested that this might be carried forward through a range of activities, including visits in both directions; workshops; seminars and lecture programmes.  Intended to initiate the development of long-term, vigorous links between UK and African scholars, whilst also encouraging an intra-African, south-south exchange of expertise and knowledge sharing, the scheme further envisages the publication and dissemination of joint research outcomes.

 It was against this background that the project was formulated, with the particular intention of examining the role(s) played by South Africa in the recent history of the wider southern African region. Arguably, South Africa dominates the sub-continent as much now as at any time during the 20th century. Its hegemony was initially constructed around the economic predominance of the Witwatersrand gold mining industry and its insatiable demands for hundreds of thousands of black migrant labourers drawn from every part of the region. This feature persisted well into the 1970s, in some instances to the present day. Thereafter, the political economy of the southern African sub-continent was increasingly influenced by the mounting intensity of liberation struggles, with the frontline states seeking in the form of the SADCC to counter the destabilisation campaign of apartheid-ruled South Africa. Since 1994, the economic and political power of democratic South Africa has enjoyed unfettered access to the entire region. Take-overs of local firms and direct investment by South African companies dominate neighbouring economies dependent on Pretoria for transport links and energy supplies. No less important are those occasions when Pretoria chooses not to flex its muscles, notably the current crisis in Zimbabwe. The significance of South Africa´s regional power and hegemony has long attracted scholarly attention, but recent studies have either focussed on aspects of South African policy to the exclusion of other issues, or have concentrated on individual countries at the expense of the region as a whole. Older accounts, mostly produced by historians, rarely venture beyond the 1950s. It is this historiographical unevenness which this project seeks to address, by way of its regional scope and time span, and by drawing on new or under-utilised archival sources (such as those of the SA Foreign Affairs department, and those of Zambia´s UNIParty). It proposes to do so by simultaneously exploring South African perceptions and policy in three distinct periods (1965- 74; 1975-93; 1994-2005), even as it uncovers the influences shaping experiences and initiatives elsewhere in the region.

Arrangements to facilitate intra-African co-operation rest on an agreed programme of exchange  lecturing, graduate supervision, seminar presentation, and research collaboration between the History Departments of the Universities of Pretoria, Swaziland, Botswana and Zambia.  These involve in year one the joint teaching of courses in  Honours and Masters programmes at the Universities of Swaziland, Pretoria, and Zambia, together with a University of Botswana-hosted project workshop early the following year. In year two, intra-African lecturing and supervisory provision is both extended and consolidated, notably to the University of Botswana, even as project switches to U.K. visits by two of the senior African partners. Year three sees the remaining two senior African partners visit the UK, but the primary emphasis stays on intra-African collaboration in the form of lecturing and supervisory exchanges, culminating in a University of Pretoria-hosted conference in December.

Published outputs will include multiple-authored articles in local journals, but also internationally where appropriate; a set of edited essays arising from the final conference; and an edited collection of key documents emanating from the  research project (perhaps aimed at an u/grad student audience). Other intended outputs include curriculum development, specifically joint MA programmes incorporating student exchanges; and collaborative PhD supervision. Plans for future collaboration presently envisage research and teaching encompassing three broad areas: the first would be to take the project back in time in order to trace the sub-continent´s fortunes from pre-colonial times through to the mid-20th century (the start date of the present project). The second would be to widen the range of topics covered, amongst them culture, gender, environment, and particularly health (from industrially-induced diseases to HIV-Aids). And thirdly, to draw in colleagues from Universities elsewhere in the southern African sub-continent.