Africa In Our Lives: Mosa Leteane

Mosa Leteane is a Fulbright Scholar from South Africa. She is a Law graduate from the University of the Free State. As a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, Mosa is passionate about education, leadership, and law. Her research is aimed at understanding the recent transitional justice developments in the country and the implications that has for an established democracy.

What is your background, and What brings you to Madison?

My name is Mosangoaneng Leteane, a PhD law candidate from the Free State (Welkom) and I am here on a Fulbright Visiting Researchers (VSR) Program. The VSR is an immersive academic and cultural network that connects emerging (South African) researchers with American universities and research institutions. Placement is based on a variety of factors but mainly on the candidate’s academic strength, research objectives, and leadership portfolio. As a VSR, I have an allocated advisor from the Law school and the program encourages inter-departmental participation which is how I have been able to join conversations and activities in the African Studies Department.

Tell me about your research and how you first got involved.

My research is a human rights, transitional justice-based contribution. It examines the prosecution of apartheid crimes in a post-Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and democratized South Africa. These are inquests that took place over 40 years ago in which further investigation and prosecution were delayed. The reopened inquests have presented significant challenges to the courts, and they pose critical questions on reconciliation and justice for crimes of apartheid in South Africa. A central part of my research is understanding how this changes South Africa’s transitional justice discourse as well as the legal and political implications of the reopened inquests.

As someone born in the remnants of apartheid (born free), I have always been curious about my environment and the country’s notion of justice in democracy. It raised a multitude of questions and led me to pursue law. By studying law, I was able to understand the impact of legal institutions on society and, moreover, the lingering effect that history has on the law and therefore society.

What projects/experiences have shaped you into the person that you are today?

I completed my undergrad in the wake of a transformative higher education movement in South Africa called “#Rhodesmustfall” and “#FeesMustFall”. These were social movements started by University of South Africa students questioning multiple issues: the basis of transformation in higher education, lack of inclusivity in higher education, and most importantly, what decolonization looks like for South Africa and the institution at large. I think that was a defining moment not just for students, but for the whole country. The student movement and reopened inquests can be seen as a larger phenomenon of South Africa’s constant interaction with its unaddressed history.

Another experience was becoming a Mandela Rhodes scholar in the aftermath of the student movement. The Mandela Rhodes Foundation (MRF) is a Pan-African scholarship program that empowers young African scholars to pursue academic excellence, authentic leadership, entrepreneurship, and foster reconciliation. Learning how to reconcile the irreconcilable is a crucial conversation of the program and is a running theme in both my research and South Africa. This is also not an easy undertaking but having perspective beyond one country allowed me to see how connected our history is and that staying connected is how we grow. The MRF has become my network of African leaders who are honest about these conversations, and are passionate about social impact and equity in the world.

How do you practice decolonization in your work and everyday life?

The whole point of colonization is to strip people away from their humanity and turn people into the marginalised “other”. For me, decolonization is this scientific construct whose aftermath still binds and controls many parts of Africa and being African. The real work of decolonization is rehumanizing and recognizing humanity with one another. In the legal spaces, it’s recognizing the historical impact of the law, reforming aspects that don’t protect its marginalized citizens, and extending it to parts of society that have otherwise been left out of important political transition. I think the real work of decolonization going forward is ensuring that all transitions, from economic, and environmental, to public health are just, inclusive, and equitable. As a change or transitional justice researcher, I believe that is the future of decolonization.

What do you hope to gain from your experiences here at UW-Madison?

I hope to broaden my comparative lens on my research; and learn more about Madison. Wisconsin has an extensive history with an alluring culture that I hope to explore. Everyone keeps asking me about learning to walk on water so I do look forward to having a Madison winter.


You can connect with Mosa on …. twitter