Accountable Leadership and Sustainability in Africa, UNISA, Pretoria, April 21-24, 2015: Call for papers


CALL FOR PAPERS for an international, interdisciplinary conference, celebrating the 40th Anniversary of UNISA’s Research Institute for Theology and Religion, on:


at UNISA (University of South Africa), Pretoria, South Africa, April 21-24, 2015

This International Conference brings together scholars/researchers, practitioners of diverse religious traditions and spiritualities, FBOs/NGOs and policy makers to interrogate the interconnectedness between religion, democracy and civil society; its impact on accountable leadership and sustainability in Africa. Public commentators often criticize political entrepreneurs and African states of their failure to develop an ethic of public probity and accountability, partly exemplified by corruption. The enigmas of public transparency and probity can hardly be limited to public governance. We can also explore how religious institutions in Africa interrogate, critique, practice or fail to eschew transparency, accountability and probity in the quest for economic, social-political transformation and sustainability. Religious entrepreneurs grapple with similar issues of accountable leadership, good governance, probity, and integrity as a reflection of their wider societies. Ecclesiastical, Islamic, or Indigenous religious polities are situated within wider pluralistic (secular) polities in Africa and are thus mutually reinforcing each other.

The significance of leadership and corporate governance (religious/secular) lies in its contribution to prosperity, peaceful coexistence, moral regeneration and accountability. Accountability requires appropriate rules and regulations, doctrines, codes of conduct, values and behaviour to make for viable transformation and sustainability. For instance, a historical perspective on leadership dynamics can be helpful in the present crisis in leadership in church and secular contexts. The churches and missionary societies played a crucial role in the shaping of South African religious cultures, as much in the colonial period as during the years of the formation of the Union and the Apartheid era.

The conference provides a platform in which scholars/researchers, practitioners and policy makers will explore, through historical and contemporary perspectives, how authority structures, institutionalized myths, beliefs, and rituals of authority differently mobilize and influence members? behaviour and attitudes towards financial probity and organizational policies. How do various hierarchical/decentralized religious polities (i.e. structures of church government) in Africa deal with issues of probity (moral regeneration), equity and sustainable development? What values do African religions and spiritualities evince that represent a boon or bane for improving corporate governance and ensuring improved ethics and probity in African systems of governance? How should religious polity structures respond, critique and identify with national/international policies that are aimed at a disciplined management and equitable distribution of public resources, and the establishment of a viable culture of financial probity? What various models condition religious polities and leadership in Africa, and how have these been influenced by modern political movements, such as Western democracy, as well as by modern economics and technology? Are liberal or conservative forms of religiosity compatible with Western democracy? How and to what extent should religious insights be present in the public sphere of the secular polity and vice versa? How does prayer ritual action impact on religious and national polities to maximize probity at personal and institutional levels?

The conference will highlight and explore how and to what extent African religious traditions and spiritualities may cohere on the critical issues, such as that of probity, equity and accountability, which confront the African continent, but also the African religious diaspora, their ‘faiths’ in relation to the wider, global community.

Interrelated issues on religion, spirituality, democracy, leadership, social capital, public engagement, poverty, corruption and transparency will be discussed. The conference is intended to build synergies and forge dialogue on how religious/spiritual communities in Africa and the African diaspora can combat poverty and foster probity, accountable leadership and financial sustainability.

The conference programme shall focus on the following and related sub-themes:

  • Corruption and Financial Sustainability
  • Religious Polity
  • Leadership and intimate spaces
  • Women, Gender and Leadership
  • Youth and Leadership
  • Democracy, NGOs and FBOs
  • Participatory Democracy
  • Religion and Politics
  • Religion and Development
  • Ecological Sustainability
  • Religion, Constitutionalism and Secularism
  • Leadership, Violent Conflict, Peace and Reconciliation
  • Religion, Health and Sustainable Development
  • Religion, Media and Leadership

Paper/presentation proposals based or related to one or more of the above themes are invited from the interested public: scholars, religious/spiritual communities and organizations, policy makers, and FBOs/NGOs. Interested panelists are invited to submit a paper/abstract proposal (max. 200 words), stating institutional affiliation, on or before 30 September 2014.

Abstract proposals and all correspondences regarding the conference should be sent electronically (email) to the conference secretariat:

Successful applicants will be informed by 15 October, 2014. Papers presented will be considered for a book/journal publication through a peer review process. Drafts of paper are expected to be submitted by
20 February 2015. A final full draft of the revised paper will be expected by 30 June 2015. Following the acceptance of abstracts, presenters will be given specific guidelines for writing their draft papers.

Conference registration details will follow on the conference website:

Hosting institutions:

  • Research Institute for Theology and Religion (RITR), University of South Africa;
  • Department of Church History & Church Polity, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria; and
  • School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh, UK

In collaboration with: African Association for the Study of Religions (AASR) & Pan African Strategic and Policy Research Group (PANAFSTRAG)

Local Organizing Committee:
Proff. Christina Landman, Ignatius Swart, Victor Molobi, Drr. Wessel Bentley, Obaji Agbiji (UNISA); Proff. Graham Duncan, Jerry Pillay (University of Pretoria)

International Collaborative Partner:
Prof. Afe Adogame (University of Edinburgh, UK)

Confirmed keynote speakers:

  • Proff. Vusi Gumede (Thabo Mbeki Leadership Institute, University of South Africa);
  • Paulus Zulu (University of KwaZulu Natal);
  • Dapo Asaju (Lagos State University);
  • Anne Kubai (Uppsala University);
  • Afe Adogame (University of Edinburgh)
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