Below follows some extracts from the address I prepared upon receiving my Honorary Doctorate from Durban University of Technology.
Being born in Durban, it makes more it of an honour receiving this award of an honorary doctor in Technology Degree in Engineering and the Built Environment from the Durban University of Technology. It is a welcome homecoming. Thank you very much.
Sheltered from its worst excesses by my mother Bakkium, a dedicated housewife, I imbibed from her the values that still guide me in my life. In difficult circumstances she raised us with values of tolerance, respect, honesty, compassion and service. She taught me that colour, religion, language and culture that made us look different from each other was superficial; that below our skin we were all human beings and that our diversity was but different streams into one ocean of humanity.
That ultimately, drivers of the global burden of disease and human suffering have much to do with poverty, social exclusion and inequality; that is why I started my university life studying science in preparation for that theater of struggle – the right of our people to quality health, quality education and freedom.
To Steve Biko I offer this doctorate as a tribute to the ultimate sacrifice of life you gave to us. How I wish your spirit will arise in the students gathered here and in future generations to remind us of the freedoms we fought for.
How I wish that our universities can be reborn as the nurseries of democratic debate that you so fiercely campaigned for. How I wish this generation can hear the echo of your call, “We blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that they should be playing. They want to do things for themselves and all by themselves.”
In the sugar mills and hostels of KZN I learnt the real life lessons of building organization and social transformation. It was from the most exploited, most illiterate and poorest of our country that I learnt to listen with attention; learnt from wisdom of hostel dwellers and applied those lessons to build the mighty movement of workers that was central to toppling apartheid.
To leaders like Chris Dlamini, Elijah Barayi, John Makatini and countless others I share this award with. Your names will never be written in the history books but in my heart and that of millions you will always be the true leaders of our freedom struggle.
Madiba was a symbol of our struggle for human dignity. His words remind us constantly, “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”
It is that Nelson Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, Chris Hani and that generation of servant leaders who taught me so much that I owe this award to today.
So finally it is to you that I dedicate this award. I believe that beyond your personal success you will make the right choice for your country and all our beautiful people.
The Witness also ran a story on the events.
Photo: Independent Group (Sibusiso Ndlovu)