Address by President Nelson Mandela on receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Zululand

30 May 1998

Mr Chancellor;
Mr Vice-Chancellor,
Members of Council and Senate.
Members of the University
Your Majesty,
Distinguished Guests;
And particularly: Graduands, Diplomates, their Parents, Family and Friends;
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am delighted to be here and to re-visit the rolling hills of KwaDiangezwa. My visit is made even more memorable by the honour the university community is doing me today. It is a particular privilege to share the day with the young people receiving degrees and diplomas, and to be admitted together with them to the ranks of the alumni of this important institution.

At the same time as I thank you most sincerely for the honour, Mr Chancellor, I need to apologise for having had to delay for so long before being coming to accept the degree. We appreciate your gracious patience and understanding.

Perhaps that patience is also borne out of the sense of time and history with which the environs of this university are imbued. These were the stamping grounds of King Shaka, where he held sway after uniting the Zulu nation. This is the soil in which the rich Zulu culture sprouted and bloomed, enriching in its turn the diversity and vibrancy of our South African nationhood. To come here to be so honoured is to celebrate our unity in diversity.

As we look back, celebrating the proud traditions from which we spring, we draw encouragement and inspiration for the daunting tasks ahead of us. We never pretended that the reconstruction of our country or the building of our new nation out of the ruins of apartheid were going to be easy or short term tasks. Yet we face the future with confidence because we know where we come from, and because we can draw on the best from our past to build the better future for all our citizens.

We look to our universities to lead the recovery of our authentic history. We expect them to set the pace in educating towards the reconstruction and development of our country. Therefore, as I today become an alumnus of this university, I want to make an impassioned plea to all its members to recommit themselves to making it an institution of quality. This would entail discipline, hard work, respect for others and putting the common cause above short term personal considerations.

Our country faces a major constraint in the form of limited resources. The needs of the poor and the previously disadvantaged are great. Government has to prioritise carefully and maintain strict fiscal discipline. This, however, is not only the obligation of government. Citizens in all walks of life need in equal measure to be disciplined and to utilise the resources at their disposal in the most gainful way.

Tertiary institutions are major recipients of government funding and of subsidisation by the taxpayer. We all realise that much more remains to be done and that thousands of poor students are still in need of financial assistance. Recognition of that fact only re-emphasises the obligation to avoid wastefulness in dealing with resources. Society looks towards teachers, researchers, administrators, workers and students at universities and technikons to demonstrate that discipline and commitment and thus set an example to be followed.

Universities are charged with the task of educating and producing the leadership of a society. This university has already produced many fine men and women, some of who serve in the national government and in the province, and others who occupy leadership positions in commerce and industry.

Today I would like to touch upon one particular task of leadership for which we look towards the youth of our day.

As the youth in other countries do, our youth should play a leading role in fighting for peace.

We live in a world and in times in which it is recognised that peace is the most powerful weapon any community or people has to bring about stability and progress through development. No longer does the conflict mentality of a bi-polar world infuse itself into all levels of society throughout the world.

South Africa's political leadership has helped break down that way of thinking it has set an example for the rest of the world. Our negotiated and peaceful settlement of a conflict which the world expected to end in bloody violence, is often hailed as a miracle and an inspiration to others.

The challenge to you, the youth, is to consolidate the spirit and the practice of peace throughout our society; to make our country a shinning beacon of peace, tolerance and stability; to ensure that future generations are the beneficiaries of this inspiring tradition set by the founders of our new democracy.

It is vital that our youth lead the efforts to create the conditions in which that our people can sleep peacefully at night and our children can go to school without fear.

Once more, this university, my new alma mater, is historically placed to play an important role in this regard. This province and region have been the stage of some of the most tragic and destructive episodes of the political violence that plagued our land at one time. The way in which political violence subsided and communal co-operation increased, will be remembered as one of the success stories of our democracy.

We dare not, however, rest on our laurels. Though we have made progress, we have not completed the task. And we cannot allow this province to slip back into political violence. South Africa should not lag behind the rest of the world because our youth are not fully exercising their responsibility for peace.

This applies in particular to the ANC and the IFP.

The challenge to make peace among us has never been greater. Even as we make progress, there are still forces opposed to our democratic advance who would rejoice to see our country plunged into disorder.

And yet we must ask if stability in certain areas has not been undermined precisely because our youth have not done enough to lead the fight for peace. Have they fully used their vision for long-term planning to stop communities being torn apart by the resort to violence in order to deal with political differences? Have they themselves fed a perception that Africa and Africans are somehow prone to violence?

Indeed our enemies celebrate when we pick up spears, guns or pangas. And they grow unhappy when we reach out to each other in the name of peace.

Thus, a prominent newspaper protested yesterday: "What has happened to the Inkatha Freedom Party? That great, thundering voice of dissent which roared in the build-up to the 1994 election has been subdued". It went on to complain of this as "a sell-out".

Clearly those opposed to change are growing frustrated at the progress we are making in building lasting peace among our people. This should spur us on to further consolidate our peace efforts.

The ANC and the IFP must be steadfast in their efforts to achieve peace and tolerance among their supporters and in the country as a whole. We must do our all to defeat opponents of peace both within and outside our organisations.

The future belongs to our youth. As some of us near the end of our political careers, younger people must take over. They must seek and cherish the most basic condition for peace, namely unity in our diversity, and find lasting ways to that goal.

If I make this plea so urgently, it is also because we know that with the approach of an election, the political temperature will rise once more and with it the temptation to violence an coercion.

Our commitment to peace must mean amongst other things that we nurture and promote tolerance and the freedom to express differing views.

Universities are supposed to be leading champions of free speech, debate, open enquiry and tolerance. We expect their graduands to be deeply imbued with those attitudes.

We would wish for them to be ambassadors of peace and tolerance wherever they find themselves in their communities r in their professions. Thus shall we build a stable democratic society of which posterity will be the proud inheritors.

Mr Chancellor, permit me to conclude by once more thanking the university for the great honour bestowed upon me. May I also congratulate the graduating students.

We trust that you shall do your - no our - alma mater proud as you now step out into the world of work and the professions.

May you use the knowledge you have gained here for the betterment of your fellow citizens and your country.

Ekugcineni ngithanda ukufisela iYunivesithi yakwa Zulu ukuba ikhule idlondlobale iqhubeke ukuthiqiza, abafundi abanohlonze futhi abayokwenza lelizwe lakithi liziqhenye ngabo. Izwe lakithi liyayidinga iYunivesithi enje Ngiyabonga.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website