Address by Nelson Mandela on his installation as the Chancellor of the University of the North, Turfloop

25 April 1992

Mr Chairman of Council;
Chancellors of other universities here present;
Members of both the council and senate of the University of the North;
Members of the transformation committee;
Members of the SRC and members of the student union
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen;
Comrades and friends

It is an immutable fact of life that no power on earth can shackle the human spirit for ever. However, this universal truth, that has permeated the social fabric of society from time immemorial and having been passed on from generation to generation, seem to still elude many, even as we move towards the end of the twentieth century. The infamous apartheid system has created an artificial has built up an elaborate system of social engineering in terms of which black education at a tertiary level has been fragmented and people allocated to universities on the basis of race and tribe. The creation of the "bush" universities was but one way in which government tries to exclude the black majority from the mainstream universities.

It is not the irony of history that today I stand here before you to be installed as the Chancellor of the Uiversity of the ...

The fact that both this University and I, have reached this point through the narrow path of fire - characterised by relentless struggle. We have converged on this summit of victory after many sacrifices. In this regard, it is instructive to recall that Turfloop was established at the time when many freedom fighters were being herded into prisons, whilst others were forced to take sanctuary in the relative safety of foreign lands. At the time, architects of our misery believed themselves to have succeeded in defying the law of nature - they were convinced that the human spirit in us was broken forever. Three decades later, the corpse of apartheid lies prostrate at the feet of people's power.

However, our journey to this point has never been an easy one. We literally had to walk through a garden of thorns, and we are still wading across rivers of blood. It is a matter of great pride to us that, this university, like many others did not become an institution of servitude as was the design of our oppressors. In this regard, we must single out the heroic role of the students and commend them highly for their for their commitment to the struggle. The indelible history of the struggle of the students on this campus is full of events of indomitable courage and resilience. It was students like Onkgopotse Tiro, Fistus Mothudi, Ignitius Mathebule and many others who inscribed the name of Turfloop on the conscience of our people. That Turfloop is today counted in the roll of honour is because of their valiant deeds. These heroes and heroines of our people, are no more today. May we observe a moment of silence in memory of all the martyrs of our university.

Thank you.

Mr Chairman of Council

On this campus, our students organised a Pro-Frelimo rally simultaneously with a much bigger rally at Curries Fountain in Durban in the wake of the victory of the national liberation struggle against Portuguese colonialism. Taking place as it did, at a time when the apartheid rule held sway, that rally was a truly remarkable expression of international solidarity with forces of freedom. It became a standard bearer - an acid test, against which efforts by successive generation of students, on this campus and elsewhere would be pitted. Our students proved to be more than equal to the task. Their tenacity became an unprecedented phenomenon. This is the reason why, our campus had to be occupies by the army, for a period of no less than three years in the 1980's. Even as we speak, the army continues to man a military post on a hill-top not far from here. It is little wonder, therefore, that Turfloop has produced national leaders of the stature of Cyril Ramaphosa, Phandelani Nevolovhodwe, Frank Chikane and many others. I am, therefore, deeply honoured and humbled to be associated with an institution which has rendered such outstanding service to this our beloved country. Accordingly, I accept this Chancellorship with all humility.

It must be said, that in recent time, the governing bodies of this University have shown a marked readiness to initiate changes intended to transform the University in response to the winds of change blowing across the length and breadth of country. The appointment of Professor Chabani Manganyi as Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University, and today my installation as Chancellor, are, amongst others, developments which bear eloquent testimony to the new spirit of transformation reigning supreme on these hills of Turfloop. I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate Professor Manganyi on a job exceedingly well done. Within a very short space of time, he has succeeded to steer our institution towards a new beginning, and thus we are on course to being a true people's university. At last, we are transforming an instrument of oppression into a vehicle of liberation.

Mr Chairman of Council

As we enter the still waters of transformation we must brace ourselves for the inevitable undercurrent. The creation of a new society has never been an easy one. On that plane, we have to make a clean and at time painful break, with tradition and the things to which we are accustomed. Those who seek to rely on old land-marks in their quest for a new society, will find themselves wandering aimlessly in a hostile jungle. Yesterday's familiar terrain is disappearing before our very eyes. We are, being thrust into the role of pioneers and torch bearers into a new and democratic South Africa. It is us whom history has charged, with the task of opening up new realms, to unveil the hitherto hidden horizons, so that the coming generations can live in a land where merit is the only determinant of success.

We are distressed to note that our compatriots in the national party still have such grave reservations about democracy. While State President de Klerk and his party pay lip service to this concept, it is clear from his speech of 23rd April that he and his colleagues are not prepared to accept the rhetorical frills with which de Klerk adorns the National Party's proposals, it is evident that what they really seek is the continued incumbency of the national party even in the event that it loses an election.

It is the National Party's stubborn refusal to give up exclusive power that constitutes the primary stumbling block to the success of Codesa.

The ANC would like Codesa ll to be more than a mere talking shop for the repetition of comfortable platitudes. It must be an occasion when concrete decision affecting the future of our country can be agreed upon. The sense of urgency that informs the constituencies we represent is clearly absent in the case of the national party. South Africa has waited too long for change. We are, consequently, very impatient and the national party can no longer equivocate on this matter.

No party, to our knowledge, has thus far put forward a winner takes all solution. On the contrary, it is the national party that is advocating a loser takes all solution which is unprecedented in any democracy. In other words what South Africa is being asked to accept is a constitutional dispensation that will permit the political parties to ignore the verdict of the electorate.

Speaking plainly, the National Party wants to retain its hand on the levers of power even when after a democratic election has demonstrated that it does not enjoy the confidence of the South African electorate.

The national party's desire to cling to power at all costs emerges even more sharply in the government's proposals for the transition. Our concern here is not the labels that politicians stick on their wares but the actual substance of their proposals. De Klerk's claim that his proposals are intended to avoid the temptations of absolute power is disingenuous. If accepted, the outcome will not be an interim government that enjoys the confidence of the majority of South Africans, but a slightly refurbished national party government. The ANC also rejects outright the suggestion that elections be held to constitute an executive council. Our position remains unchanged. We call for elections for a constituent assembly which shall also have legislative powers while a new constitution is being negotiated.

De Klerk's veiled threat to unilaterally outlaw Umkhonto we Sizwe. As far as the ANC is concerned we have scrupulously avoided engaging in public debate on this issue because it is the subject of extremely sensitive bilateral negotiations between the government and ourselves. The government has constantly made provocative remarks on the subject which require us to respond.

Firstly, it has to be clearly understood that Umkhonto we Sizwe is not a private army but an insurgent army created by the national liberation movement to rid our country of the crime of apartheid. Umkhonto we Sizwe is recognised as a legitimate military formation in international law and in terms of the geneva agreements. Government attempts to act unilaterally on this matter pose as grave a threat to our bilateral negotiations as their intransigence poses to the entire process set in motion by Codesa.

The ANC shall not disband Umkhonto we Sizwe. But we are equally determined that the de Klerk government will not wreck the negotiations with ill-conceived bombast and reckless behaviour.

Mr chairman of council,

Change is as unsettling as it is painful. It cannot be any different because change is movement - a tension caused by contradictions which are part of existence. At times of momentous developments, when societies reach their own high noon, everything else becomes uncertain except for the golden gate that must be reached - the goal of freedom. Like our wider society out there, our university is at a cross roads.

We are, therefore, being called upon to be firm in our convictions, yet very accommodating and flexible in our approach. Yes, we are bound to hurt ourselves in the process, but if we are sensitive and careful enough, we shall be able to heal our wounds and rise again. Only this time, we shall be the wiser and, therefore, much stronger. Lest we lose heart, our cherished goal of freedom for all, now looms large on the horizon. This must reinforce our will to do good to those whom we lead as well as our nation.

We are beginning to experiment with the future. Contradictions must consequently abound. Differences between students and...

Growing pains, what unites us, that which cements us together into a solid whole, is our common goal of education for the youth of the motherland. It is this priceless objective - far nobler than our imagining, which must never be sacrificed on the alter of our weaknesses. It we should fall, as we may, from time to time, it is this banner - our education, which must never be allowed to touch the ground. We should never forget that education in our first reason for existence as a university. Students, in particular, should always keep this in mind.

One of the singularly significant developments over the last couple of months has been the recently held national education conference at which a broad range of national, political, educational and community organisations participated. This conference agreed on a set of guiding principles for the future education system, including the right of all people - adults and children - to education and a corresponding obligation on the state to provide education and training. Clearly, the provision of education and training shall be linked to the development of human resources within national development aimed at the restructuring of the economy, redistribution, and the democratisation of society.

We would also have to place special emphasis on the redress of educational inequalities among historically disadvantaged sectors of society, particularly the youth, the disabled, adults, women, the unemployed, rural communities and black people in general.

Education should be based upon the principles of co-operation, critical thinking, and civic responsibility, and shall empower individuals for participation in all aspects of society. As we prepare for a democratic south, education will remain a central concern for us. It is therefore essential that we recognise this centrality and develop both short and long term objectives to realise this goal. In the short term we need to ensure that the immediate consequences of apartheid education are urgently addressed. These include:

The reallocation of educational resources on a national basis according to national needs. Ensuring access to schooling, particularly in the townships and rural areas. Improving the survival chances of our children in both primary and secondary schools. mathematics and sciences.

In this period of change, the minority government needs to cease all unilateral restructuring of education. In particular, its short sighted moves to hand over national resources in the form of schools to the white community through its model c policy, not only creates greater inequalities but entrenches the privileges of the white community.

Our majority objective in education is to develop a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic educational system. The realisation of this objective will not only ensure the development of an economically just society. Educational institutions such as universities and colleges have a major role to play in this task. The university of the north stands poised to play a significant role in this process. It is my belief that this university will respond to this challenge.

In conclusion I wish to thank you most profoundly, for the singular honour you deemed fit to bestow upon me, through my appointment as your chancellor. At all times I shall ensure that your trust in me is fully vindicated. Let us get down to work and make this university one of the brightest stars in this country.

Thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation