Pass­ing of thought-leader Ajulu Rok a stern wake-up call

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT INTERNATIONAL - Pali Le­hohla is South Africa’s Statis­ti­cian-Gen­eral and head of Sta­tis­tics South Africa Pali Le­hohla

IT BEHOVES us as Africans to do all in our power to take very bold strate­gic and prac­ti­cal steps in in­sti­tu­tion­al­is­ing the pro­duc­tion and re­pro­duc­tion of knowl­edge, to im­mor­talise the thought pro­cesses that em­bed crit­i­cal think­ing and by the same to­ken im­mor­talise our thought lead­ers. The pass­ing of one of Africa’s bright­est brains is thus a wake-up call.

Pro­fes­sor Ajulu Rok re­mains a pan-African crit­i­cal thinker and thought leader.

Death has robbed us of a rare brain in the per­son who at the Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho (NUL) and in Le­sotho gen­er­ally was fondly known as “Ajulu.”

Rok passed for his sur­name and he was called Ajulu Rok. But with his kins­men as­sem­bled in South Africa this week, be­fore his mor­tal re­mains get ac­com­pa­nied to his na­tive land, Kisumu, in Kenya, I dis­cov­ered that we had a dis­tinct dif­fer­ence in ar­rang­ing his names. What’s more, I dis­cov­ered his other name was Richard. Hango, from Namibia, an­other stu­dent at Roma, had to ex­plain his ini­tial P, which to our hor­ror stood for Primus. While a num­ber of the stu­dent body had Euro­pean names, it was an un­writ­ten rule to re­ject these colo­nial names and they were not gen­er­ally used.

The life of Ajulu at NUL re­mains in­com­plete out­side the many of us in the stu­dent body who he touched with his sharp and of­ten ar­ro­gant tongue. But I will be re­miss if I do not dis­tinctly men­tion the po­lit­i­cal de­bate lead­ers in the stu­dent body.

These were the late Jerry Modis­ane and Gwentshe Mz­imkulu from South Africa; San­tho Se­hoai from Le­sotho; Mothusi Lekalake from Botswana; the late Crispen Mu­denge from Zim­babwe; and Ladu Gore, then known to be from Uganda but ac­tu­ally from South Su­dan.

Crit­i­cism

From the lec­tur­ing staff, John Bardill, Roger Southall, Mal­colm Wal­lis and Stan Mu­denge stood out. When it came to sports, although not a soc­cer player him­self, Ajulu died for the Rovers Foot­ball Club, the univer­sity foot­ball club. At the cafe­te­ria after con­jur­ing a de­mand for spe­cial diet from gogo Mmamodise, Ajulu would al­ways say his was to eat a bal­anced diet.

There are many things one can say and write about Pro­fes­sor Rok and his oft-deroga­tory re­marks about quis­lings. Be­hind the ar­ro­gance was al­ways a deep and car­ing smile. Ajulu was al­ways at his best when there was po­lit­i­cal de­bate and sev­eral of those oc­curred in the lec­ture theatre, where prom­i­nent speak­ers were in­vited to ad­dress the Univer­sity Com­mu­nity. One such was ad­dressed by the late Pro­fes­sor Es’kia Mphahlele, who re­ceived a bar­rage of crit­i­cism for re­turn­ing to apartheid South Africa hav­ing left it decades be­fore. The charge was re­lent­less and the likes of Ajulu, Gwentshe and Jerry had smelt blood in­stead of the ash and nos­tal­gia that Pro­fes­sor Mphahlele so el­e­gantly pre­sented from his then re­cently pub­lished book.

An­other I dis­tinctly re­mem­ber is a lec­ture by an Amer­i­can diplo­mat who was elab­o­rat­ing on Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy. I re­call the re­marks by Mothusi Lekalake after Ajulu had made his re­marks. Mothusi ar­gued that only the Bri­tish ig­no­rance of the di­a­mond wealth in Botswana se­cured Botswana in­de­pen­dence. Had the Bri­tish known, he ar­gued, Botswana would still be colonised.

By so do­ing, Mothusi il­lus­trated the gen­eral point that Ajulu had ar­tic­u­lated on the colo­nial­ist strat­egy that Amer­ica ex­er­cised on Africa and South Africa, more specif­i­cally. I at­tended po­lit­i­cal econ­omy lec­tures with all these men and that shaped my acu­men in plac­ing sta­tis­tics and eco­nom­ics at the ser­vice of hu­man­ity. None of them, how­ever, were stu­dents of sta­tis­tics and eco­nom­ics and thus I could not re­cip­ro­cate. Ajulu re­li­giously took a jour­ney to the li­brary but would of­ten not get in be­cause some of the best po­lit­i­cal de­bates oc­curred out­side the li­brary and would be trans­ferred to con­tinue at the cafe­te­ria at morn­ing tea time.

I was a ben­e­fi­ciary of those noisy de­bates as my hall of res­i­dence Moshoeshoe was next to the li­brary and my room lit­er­ally over­looked it. Next to my room was Crispen Mu­denge’s room and then Ladu Gore’s room. It was on one of those morn­ings that Ajulu was at his best, walk­ing nois­ily to the li­brary and this time cri­tiquing Ladu Gore.

Ladu was 1.9m tall, well built and used to be in Idi Amin’s army. He ob­vi­ously heard Ajulu’s mis­sives and he opened his win­dow and said “Ajulu shit, shit Ajulu” and Ajulu went dead silent.

An­other day was in March 1980 and you could not help but hear Ajulu from afar. I opened my win­dow and asked, “what are you pre­par­ing lately Ajulu?” To which he replied, “Le­hohla, I am writ­ing a the­sis on the rise and fall of Mokhehle.” My re­tort was “Ajulu Mokhehle con­tin­ues to rise, he will never fall.” Thir­teen years later, we met in Pre­to­ria two days be­fore the up­ris­ings in Mafikeng oc­curred.

Ntsu Mokhehle of the BCP in Le­sotho had just won a sweep­ing vic­tory with all 80 con­stituen­cies vot­ing BCP. We were at­tend­ing a work­shop at the HSRC and I least ex­pected to meet Ajulu.

As we met, ex­cited at not hav­ing seen each other in years and know­ing that, like my­self, we both left Le­sotho un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously un­der Prime Min­is­ter Jonathan’s rule, I could not help but ask for Ajulu’s the­sis on the rise and fall of Mokhehle.

He said: “Le­hohla, go back to Le­sotho be­fore posts get taken up.” We in­deed spent a splen­did evening rem­i­nisc­ing about Roma and what each of us was do­ing, but top on the list was Ladu Gore. Typ­i­cal Ajulu, he said you Stu­dent Lib­er­a­tion Front (SLF) mem­bers have al­ways fought on the wrong side of the strug­gle. Ladu is now hav­ing to start all over again in the low ranks in SPLM. He is there suf­fer­ing.

Ini­tia­tives

On Novem­ber 10, 2015, NUL com­mem­o­rated its 70th an­niver­sary, where we again met with Ajulu – and Ladu could not es­cape our dis­cus­sion.

This time round it was about his pos­si­ble ex­pul­sion from the party, and again Ajulu said to me you see, un­like Cas­sas mem­bers, you SLF are al­ways caught on the wrong side of the revo­lu­tion.

The ad­dress by Pro­fes­sor Njab­ulo Nde­bele, the pres­i­dent of Pius Col­lege/ UBLS/ NUL alumni, was about what the mean­ing of the in­sti­tu­tion in Roma for gen­er­a­tions to come. In par­tic­u­lar, this is in re­la­tion to re­gional in­te­gra­tion in Africa, but more im­por­tantly the re­la­tions be­tween the peo­ples of Le­sotho and those of South Africa, pos­ing the ques­tion of whether or not the time is ripe for the dis­cus­sion and ex­plo­ration of these re­la­tions. Ajulu Rok in many prac­ti­cal ways made it part of his re­spon­si­bil­ity as a pan-African to con­trib­ute in ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing those of the move­ment and em­ploy­ment of Ba­sotho in South Africa.

Per­haps the most telling of our times at Roma was when Ladu Gore, who was fill­ing in forms to reg­is­ter and there was a place for fill­ing in “ca­reer sort”. Ladu Gore asked “what is this ca­reer sort? I want to be a rev­o­lu­tion­ary.” And 39 years later, in April 2016, on re­turn­ing to Juba, Ladu said: “I am not afraid for my­self, as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary you could die any time. I come to pro­claim peace and reaf­firm the peace ac­cord signed in 2015.”

To un­der­stand the stu­dent pol­i­tics of Roma and the shap­ing of lead­er­ship, com­ing from neigh­bour­ing coun­tries Kenya and Su­dan are the now late Pro­fes­sor Rok Richard Ajulu, and still alive, Gen­eral Ladu Gore, who stand out as true pan-Africans and rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies who shaped, and were shaped, by Roma.

We thank Kenya for Pro­fes­sor Rok Richard Ajulu.

One can say much of Pro­fes­sor Rok and his oft­deroga­tory re­marks about quis­lings, but be­hind the ar­ro­gance was al­ways a deep and car­ing smile

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