Life and Career
Ndebele's father was Nimrod Njabulo Ndebele and his mother was Makhosazana Regina Tshabangu. He married Mpho Kathleen Malebo on 30 July 1971. They have one son and two daughters. Ndebele was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy by the University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland in 1973; a Master of Arts in English Literature by the University of Cambridge in 1975; and a Doctor of Philosophy in Creative Writing by the University of Denver in 1983. He also studied at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, where he was the first recipient of the South African Bursary.
Njabulo Ndebele was Vice-Chancellor and Principal at the University of Cape Town from July 2000 to June 2008, following tenure as a scholar in residence at the Ford Foundation’s headquarters in New York. He joined the Foundation in September 1998, immediately after a five-year term of office as Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Limpopo in Sovenga, in the then Northern Province. Previously he served as Vice-Rector of the University of the Western Cape. Earlier positions include Chair of the Department of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand; and Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Dean, and Head of the English Department at the National University of Lesotho.
An established author, Njabulo Ndebele recently published a novel The Cry of Winnie Mandela to critical acclaim. An earlier publication Fools and Other Stories won the Noma Award, Africa’s highest literary award for the best book published in Africa in 1984. His highly influential essays on South African literature and culture were published in a collection Rediscovery of the Ordinary.
Njabulo Ndebele served as President of the Congress of South African Writers for many years. As a public figure he is known for his incisive insights in commentaries on a range of public issues in South Africa.
Njabulo Ndebele is also a key figure in South African higher education. He has served as Chair of the South African Universities Vice-Chancellor’s Association from 2002–2005, and served on the Executive Board of the Association of African Universities since 2001. He has done public service in South Africa in the areas of broadcasting policy, school curriculum in history, and more recently as chair of a government commission on the development and use of African languages as media of instruction in South African higher education. He recently became President of the AAU and Chair of the Southern African Regional Universities Association. He is also a Fellow of UCT.
He holds honorary doctorates from universities in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Japan, South Africa and the United States of America. The University of Cambridge awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in Law in 2006, and he was made an honorary fellow of Churchill College in 2007. In 2008 the University of Michigan awarded him another Honorary Doctorate in Law.
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