IT is a great honour that this university bestows on me and through me on the African National Congress and all democratic organizations dedicated to the creation of peace and freedom in South Africa.
No institution, especially not an educational institution, can function in an environment where conflict is the order of the day, where the structure of society promotes conflict, where violence is encouraged, subsidized and inflamed. No institution committed to the pursuit of truth can flourish in a social order committed to the pursuit of racism and the preservation of racial domination.
It is therefore natural that a university such as this one, which has a proud record in defence of academic freedom, in opposition to apartheid oppression and repression, while also maintaining high standards of academic excellence, should share the values that motivate the African National Congress...
We prize the autonomy of educational institutions and consider that they function best when independent of political organisations and the state. This is indeed one of the lessons of our time...
Tearful adieu Last rites of Africa’s greatest son
What we share is values that are universally respected and this we must advance and defend. Amongst these values area belief in democracy, peace, equality, non-racialism and non-sexism. This naturally provides room for cooperation but it also makes us allies in opposition to apartheid and in our dedication to secure peace, which necessitates a democratic foundation...
Already there is fruitful cooperation between the ANC and scholars from this university in the development of our policies, amongst other areas in the economy, health and land. Academics are also engaged in joint projects with various departments in developing our understanding of numerous other issues...
Before passing on to the main issues that I want to tackle it is important for me to record one other debt to this university. This university has produced some of the finest men and women who have made outstanding contributions to the struggle to free our country and secure a better life for all we particularly wish to pay tribute to two people who gave their very lives for this cause - Ruth First, whom I knew as a fine journalist and humanist, and David Webster whom I unfortunately never had the opportunity of meeting, but whose dedication to the cause of freedom is well recorded.
1918, July 18. Born Rolihlahla Mandela at Mvezo in the Transkei
1925. Receives the name ‘Nelson’ from his primary teacher
1943. Graduates with BA from Fort Hare; Enrolls for an LLB at Wits University
1944. Co-founds the ANC Youth League
1951. Elected President of the ANCYL
1960, April 8. ANC is banned
1962, November 7. Sentenced to five years in prison
1964, June 12. Sentenced to life imprisonment
1990, February 2, ANC is unbanned. February 11, released from jail
1993, December 10. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace with FW de Klerk
1994, May 10. Becomes first President of the Republic of South Africa. December 14 - launches his autobiography ‘Long Walk to Freedom’
1999, Steps down as President afterone term
2004, June 1. Steps down from public life
2013, July 18, spends his 95th birthday in hospital
2013, December 5, dies at homeSource: www.nelsonmandela.org
These two patriots had to die because there are some people in this country who find the idea of human freedom repulsive. These people gave their lives so that others could one day live in freedom. We owe it to their memory to ensure that the day of freedom will come sooner rather than later…
Excerpts from Nelson Mandela’s acceptance speech on receiving an Honorary LLD Degree at the University of the Witwatersrand, 6 September 1991
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