Item 541 - Toespraak deur die President Nelson Mandela by die geleentheid ter ontvangs van 'n ere-graad van die Universiteit van Pretoria

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Toespraak deur die President Nelson Mandela by die geleentheid ter ontvangs van 'n ere-graad van die Universiteit van Pretoria


  • 1997-12-04 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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ANC Website

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On receiving an Honorary Doctorate

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  • English

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Voorsitter en Lede van die Raad;
Lede van die Senaat en Fakulteite;
Voorsitter en Lede van die Studenteraad;
Die Algemene Studente-liggaam;
Administratiewe en Diens-personeel;
Dames en here,

Dit is baie maklik om lee woorde te gebruik, en gewoon om hoflikheids-onthalwe te se watter groot eer 'n mens aangedoen word. Ek sou egter vandag wou he dat u moet weet hoe diep geraak ek is deur hierdie eerbetoon wat u as universiteit aan my bring.

Dit is goed dat ons die verlede agterlaat en nie te veel daaroor tob nie. Maar miskien vergeet ons, aan die anderkant, ook te gou en te maklik hoe verdeeld en verskeurd ons was, en watter wonderlike prestasie dit was om daardie verdeeldheid sonder vernietigende bloedvergieting te bowe te kom. Hierdie byeenkoms vandag behoort ons, al is dit net vir 'n oomblik, te herinner aan die pad wat ons in hierdie kort tydjie geloop het om 'n verenigde samelewing te bou. Hierdie inrigting en sy ere-graduand kom uit sterk uiteenlopende geskiedenisse en agtergronde. Vandag is ons hier bymekaar met groot mate van eensgesindheid oor die visie en ideale vir ons land en sy mense.

I am proud to be thus associated with the University of Pretoria. I am honoured to be the recipient of an award through which you are paying tribute to our nation as a whole, for their achievement in overcoming our past of conflict and division and joining hands to work for shared ideals. I humbly accept it in their name.

In its past this University had a reputation for serving a particular ideology which inflicted great suffering upon the majority in our country. Today it is a transformed and transforming institution, providing further testimony to my conviction that in spite of a political past that dealt terrible cruelty to fellow citizens with great insensitivity, Afrikaners when they change, do so completely, becoming people upon whom one can trust fully.

As our institutions transform, changing their composition to reflect the diversity of our rainbow nation, we must not be too surprised or disheartened if and when tension and conflict come to the surface, as it has on some occasions on this campus. We have not fallen from heaven into this new South Africa; we all come crawling from the mud of a deeply racially divided past. And as we go towards that brighter future and stumble on the way, it is incumbent upon each of us to pick the other up and mutually cleanse ourselves.

Our institutions of higher learning should stand at the centre of this process of eradicating all remnants of racism and creating a culture that is hostile to racism. In a country which had been so steeped in structured racism and racial discrimination, it is surprising that there is so little research, theoretical work or informed public debate on the subject of racism and its elimination.

It was encouraging to learn of the firm disciplinary steps the university has taken against manifestations of racism and discrimination, and its public messages to the campus community on this issue. This combination of concrete action and public education shows the way for us to tackle the ugly legacy of our past and construct a new future. It illustrates the true meaning of reconciliation in our country, which is not simply a matter of putting the past behind us, but of working together in practical ways to redress the legacy of that past.

Die Afrikaanse woord "regstellende aksie" is so 'n pragtige en raak beskrywing van een van die take waarvoor ons staan om die onbillike rasse-strukture van ons verlede ongedaan te maak. Die openbare gesprek oor hierdie onderwerp is dikwels in soveel mistasting, vooroordeel en opsetlike kwade bedoelings gehul en versluier, dat daardie betekenis wat Afrikaans so beskrywend oordra, heeltemal verlore gaan.

Daar word soms op ligsinnige manier opmerkings gemaak, oor die sogenaamde ironie dat in die nuwe nie-rassige Suid-Afrika, regstel- lende aksie na ras en kleur verwys. Dit word dan aangegryp as voorbeeld van 'n nuwe vorm van rassisme. Sulke argumente vertoon 'n growwe onverskilligheid teenoor en miskenning van die werklike onreg en lyding wat vervat is in die oorge-erfde rasse-strukture van ons samelewings-instellings. En dit is in hierdie opsig dat die Afrikaanse begrip van "regstel" vir ons almal 'n morele rigtingwyser behoort te wees.

Of course, like all human endeavours - especially those that courageously tackle serious issues of our lives - this attempt at redressing our past has its difficulties, pitfalls and challenges. One looks towards the application of the common pool of our knowledge, skills and wisdom to tackle and address these and other important societal debates. One assumes a new common commitment to building a society free from racial discrimination, and a joint pursuit in examining all the practical, ethical and theoretical questions that are raised by this nation-building project.

It has often been said in recent years that university-based intellectuals in South Africa - whether anti-apartheid or apartheid supporting in thrust - had derived so much of their focus from the fact of the apartheid society, that they have now somewhat lost their way. There is a sense that the voice of the universities has fallen quiet in the larger debates of our society. That vibrancy in our intellectual life, which was so much a feature of internal challenge to apartheid, seems to have largely disappeared. One trusts that our university-based intellectuals - staff and students - will soon once more take up the role of critical partners in building and developing our new society - identifying through research, scholarship and debate the burning issues at the heart of our new society.

It is through such engagement that our national efforts of reconstruction and reconciliation, of nation-building and development, will reap the full benefit of the prestigious achievements of this university, across the disciplines.

Having been so graciously granted an honorary doctorate by yourselves does not make me your intellectual peer. And I should be very careful about treading on the domain of trained intellectuals. But let me nevertheless be so foolish as to venture a final thought.

It does seem as if South African intellectuals - whether in the universities or the media - at times allow themselves to be impeded by a fear of appearing to be co-opted. Progressive intellectuals have traditionally and rightly been very suspicious of the concept of "patriotism", so often abused by demagogues and autocrats to suppress criticism and independence of thought. One fully grants our intellectuals the right to share that attitude. Our own call - including to intellectuals - for a new patriotism is, however, not a call to compromise anyone's independence. Pride in national development and commitment to it do not stand in any necessary contradiction to critical independence. A professional fetish about "critical-ness" at all costs may, on the other hand, hamper intellectuals in playing the real and full role they should in recording, describing, analysing, evaluating and criticising our efforts at building and developing the new society.

Ek het waarskynlik nou reeds te veel gese. Laat ek afeindig voor die Universiteit besluit om die doktorsgraad terug te trek. Nogmaals baie dankie vir hierdie groot eer. Ek is trots daarop om nou 'n lid van hierdie universiteits-gemeenskap te kan wees. Ek se dit in die volle vertroue dat hierdie inrigting sal voortgaan om sy rol te speel in die opbou en ontwikkeling van ons nuwe samelewing.

Ek dank u.

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 05/12/06 by Helen Joannides




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