Item 1314 - Notes for a speech by President Nelson Mandela at a re-union with Wits Class Mates

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ZA COM MR-S-1314


Notes for a speech by President Nelson Mandela at a re-union with Wits Class Mates


  • 1996-11-01 (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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Reunion with Wits Classmates

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  • English

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Half a century of history

1. The reunion takes place after half a century of turbulent history. Fifty years ago the current of liberation was gathering force, and made itself felt in the exhilaration of youthful debates on how to change our society.

2. But only an exceptional historical imagination would have anticipated decades of ever-more brutal and desperate repression; the determination of a people bent on freedom. And even more so to foresee the seminal role that...

2. Both in the outcome of the process so far and in the way it has been handled there is a powerful message that one of premier educational institutions is firmly embracing the future.

Challenges of serving a democratic South Africa

1. This capacity to deal with difficult issues and forge consensus amongst different sectors, will stand Wits in good stead as it tackles the even more momentous challenges that lie ahead.

2. Our new constitution - to whose text many a former Wits student contributed, and awaiting certification by the Constitutional Court with its share of Wits graduates - enjoins us all, individuals, government and institutions to improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person".

3. For universities this brings a specific challenge, that of achieving a curriculum that will enable them to serve our democratic society.

It will mean finding answers to such difficult questions as:

what are universities' research tasks given our changed national priorities;

how should we balance activities producing useful short-term results and those which may produce no application for decades;

what can be done to alleviate the desperately urgent shortage of graduates in science and technology.

how does Wits achieve excellence while broadening access?

4. Finding the right answers and the right balances will no doubt test the university and its capacity to handle contentious issues through discussion.

5. Wits has shown it is ready for these challenges. Even in the worst years of apartheid, many individuals from Wits drew on the wealth of its educational resources to make vital contributions to the achievement of freedom; the progress of science; and the development of society.

1. Why did he have an urge to see his fellow students after such a long time?

2. What was it like at Wits when he got there - How different was it to Fort Hare?

3. As a part-time student who had to work and attend late afternoon lectures did he have any time to participate in carpus activities?

4. What were race relations like?

5. Did he want to be the first African advocate of the Johannesburg Bar?

6, Did the Wits experience help him to change from the Youth League's exclusive Africansim to non-racialism? Who were his close friends at the university?

7. How did the professors treat Africans or indeed other blacks at this stage?

8. Was there a social integration policy in operation - any anecdotes relating to this matter? Did he ever go to parties or other entertainment's with his friends?

9. Did he take part in student politics or was he too busy with the Youth League?

10. In the later years of his studies did he notice that the returned soldiers - e.g. Joe Slovo, Harry Swartz and others were like himself older, more mature than the average student and concerned with broader issues as a result of having fought against the fascists and Nazis

11 What effect did the National Party's victory in 1948 have on him and the other black students?

12. What good times and what bad times did he have at Wits?

13. How does he feel now that his university, Wits, has given the country himself, the President, its Chief Justice, its President of the Constitutional Court and its Chancellor? And how does he feel when the university is criticised.

14. Is he optimistic about the future of Wits? Why?

15. Should Wits try even harder (to use the words of the preamble the new text of the Constitution) to:
"improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person"

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 26/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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