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Vilakazi Prize

African Studies

About the prize

The Vilakazi Prize is dedicated to the memory and intellectual achievements of BW Vilakazi, in support of new and young scholars in African Studies.

Benedict Wallet Bambatha Vilakazi (1906-1947) is one of the great men of South African letters. He was born in Groutville, attended school there and at Marianhill, Durban and Ixopo. He received his BA degree from the University of South Africa in 1934 and his MA and DLitt degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1937 and 1946. He taught at Wits in the Department of African Languages and collaborated with CM Doke on the first modern Zulu-English Dictionary, published after his death, in 1953.

Any early-career scholar, published in any one year of a full volume of African Studies, who meets the criteria set out below, will be considered for the Vilakazi Prize and a cash award of ZAR 10,000. African Studies reserves the right not to make an award if the judging panel considers that no nominated article is of sufficient merit to warrant the award. If no award is made the prize will be held over to the following year. Prize money will not accumulate.


  • The nominated article may be sole-authored or multi-authored. All authors must be at the earliest stage of their research and academic careers.
  • The author or authors must be previously unpublished in African Studies.
  • The article should be based on original research, or show evidence of original or innovative methodology or theorising. Review articles are excluded.
  • The nominated article should be directly concerned with the subject area of African Studies.

About the latest winning article

African Studies, a Taylor & Francis journal, is delighted to award the 2018 Vilakazi Prize for the best article by an early-career scholar to Dr Godfrey Maringira for his account of Azania People’s Liberation Army ex-combatants in post-apartheid South Africa.

‘When ex-combatants became peaceful: Azania’s People’s Liberation Army ex-combatants in post-apartheid South Africa’ (African Studies 77(1)) begins with Dr Maringira's own journey into academic and out of military life in Zimbabwe. The article includes a compelling ‘thick description’ of his first meeting with APLA ex-combatants, and the context for this is beautifully parsed. Tracing complex philosophical, ethical and moral questions of personhood and masculinity in the wake of war and military life, the article speaks to many areas of research into violence and state institutions, and the people at the centre of these, in Southern African settings and beyond.

The author, himself a former soldier in the Zimbabwean National Army, reflects on how his personal history as a combatant was both part of the inspiration for the research and facilitated access to a particular group of respondents living in Gugulethu, KTC settlements and Nyanga East in Cape Town – areas he was justifiably apprehensive about visiting, especially given local tensions as well as outbreaks of anti-immigrant and xenophobic responses during this fieldwork period. He shows how his military background – expressed in physical discipline, a shared technical lexicon, and a mutual discourse of insiders and outsiders, helped build trust, as did his shared participation, with the respondents, in his capacity as an ex-soldier, in a trauma counselling session.

The article homes in on the material and emotional struggles of ex-combatants, relationships with intimates, with wider family groups and with neighbours, and their introspections and identity struggles as they grapple with their place in contemporary society. The paper parses how these people understand their relationship to violence, and, in particular to the concept, value and dream of ‘being peaceful’. It offers an absorbing glimpse into the difficulties of transitioning into a different role, and points to where support for combatants might be lacking in their efforts navigating a fraught and complex world.

Dr Maringira is an associate professor of anthropology at Sol Plaatje University, Kimberley, Northern Cape, South Africa. He is a research associate at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, anthropology and development department. He is a senior Volkswagen Stiftung Foundation research fellow and is also a principal investigator of the International Development Research Center (IDRC) research on gang violence in South Africa. His areas of research include: armed violence in Africa with a specific focus on the military in post-colonial Africa. He is the author of ‘Soldiers and the State in Zimbabwe’, Routledge, 2019.

We congratulate Dr Maringira on this absorbing and challenging paper.

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