SPEECH BY THE KWAZULU-NATAL DIRECTOR–GENERAL, PROF. MANDLA MCHUNU DURING THE GRADUATION CEREMONY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ZULULAND ON 2 SEPTEMBER 2006 AT KING BHEKUZULU HALL Protocol The Honourable, Dr J.G. Zuma, Chancellor of the University of Zululand Prof. R.V. Gumbi, Rector and Vice Chancellor of the University of Zululand South African Ambassador to the Netherlands, H.E. Ambassador H.B. Mkhize Vice Rector Prof P.T. Sibaya Members of Council Mr V.P. Mahaye, President of Convocation Deans of Faculties Staff and Students Ladies and gentlemen Thank you very much for inviting me to my alma mater and providing me with the opportunity to share this most memorable and triumphant day with all the graduands, and to celebrate the victory with parents and relatives and a quiet sense of achievement by the lecturers and administration staff of this university, and to join many who will draw inspiration from today’s proceedings. Firstly I would like to congratulate all graduates who will have degrees and diplomas conferred on them today and those who will receive the necessary certificates. Most of you have worked very hard to be where you are today. Secondly, I would like to congratulate all staff (both academic and administrative) that have assisted you in your long journey towards fulfillment. Thirdly, and most importantly I want to congratulate the parents who have always supported you financially and spiritually for you to be where you are today. These are the most important people in the hall here today because they had a vision. Some may not have eyesight to read but they do have insight to lead. Their presence here today should remind us of the relationship between the family and the success of individuals and institutions including the university itself Today’s gathering is not only a victory for students, lecturers, staff and parents but it is also a victory of the family over individualism. Our being here is a result of tireless efforts by families to ensure that their children receive the highest education possible. For some parents this is the most important day in their lives and to see their children graduating is a joy and achievement they will carry with them to the grave. Very often we tend to overlook the importance of the family as the foundation of our professional, intellectual and political lives. I am sure some students who are graduating today have brought members of their extended families to rejoice with them. This is commendable and we must never forsake this good spirit of collectivism. A spirit that says your victory is mine because if nothing at all it gives me and my offsprings greater hope that in my village there is enlightenment. A Yoruba proverb says it takes the whole village to raise a child. So why should the whole village be excluded when their child graduates at the University? Because of the position I occupy as Director-General of the province I am sure you probably would like to know: “Where is the Province of KwaZulu-Natal at the moment and what does it have in store for us as students, staff, and administrators, and as citizens of this vast region” Surely you would like an answer to this from the horse’s mouth, as it were! Let me start by saying that I am a graduate of this university too, this very hall was built when I was a student here resident at “Moscow”. This institute is thus significant in my life and I respect it immensely. And when I was a student here on many occasions I was convinced that this may be the worst of academic institutions because the food could have been better until I met people who lived on a worst diet. Like everyone at that stage in life I guess I was a victim of the tension between illusion and reality. My reality was that my father had sent me here to get an education and academic enlightenment, to learn to be an independent member of society, to learn to be responsible for my welfare, and even to fall in and out of love, to hurt and to laugh as a young adult tasting the sweat of my brow and taking soft blows that life in the university may bring. My illusion was that I wanted to be very happy and very comfortable and with little work pass all my subjects. And I believed that all my ideas and ideals were new in this cold world near UMhlathuze River, and that the world should listen to me if it knew what was best for it. Whatever happened in those years I came out of this university with a degree that opened doors for me and that has taken me as far as I am today. I came out as a better person than when I arrived. I thus would like to thank this institution for giving me provision for the future and preparing me for all the terrains I have navigated. The University of Zululand has produced noted lawyers, scientists, teachers, university professors, scholars etc. The University of Zululand is among three top universities in the world that have produced finest researchers of Zulu language. Charles Berlitz, arguably the greatest linguist of the twentieth century, once made a startling observation that Zulu language has more than twenty five thousand words in excess of the vocabulary used daily by the average American University graduate. The language itself is taught in several American and European Universities as well as one in Ukraine. It has some of the oldest, wisest and most original proverbs of any living language eclipsing most European languages in terms of spiritual and philosophical profundity. For instance the proverb that says “Lapho amanzi ake ama khona aphinde ame futhi” in its deeper sense means that things in life have a cyclical sense, that which has occurred before is likely to happen again, and people should not be surprised by the recurrence of events because that is how life is. In its figurative popular sense it means people who have loved before may fall in love again. So many meanings and messages of wisdom in one proverb! For this and other reasons the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr. Sibusiso Ndebele has committed his office to a partnership with this institution for further development and preservation of the Zulu language. In my address today, I wish to attempt to create a context of what may lie ahead of you as graduates in the brave new world out there, in the social and intellectual realm. To know the future, one must be conversant with the present, yet to understand the present, one must interrogate the past. Today is the 2nd of September 2006. Let us rewind our memory to about 180 years ago in 1826 when King Shaka established another palace at KwaDukuza about 80 kilometers South of KwaBulawayo in what today is known as Stanger. We further see this king establishing what became the most powerful, most professional and most sophisticated army in Africa, south of the Sahara. Much later in the 1870’s we can envision the days of King Cetshwayo whose reign became a struggle against the colonial forces leading to the famous Battle of Isandlwana. It is during this battle that the Zulus defeated what was the greatest military power in history. Britain suffered a humiliating defeat on January 22, 1879. Among the great heroes of this battle were Godide kaNdlela kaSompisi, Tshingwayo kaMahole wakwaKhoza, Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpande, Prince Ndabuko kaMpande and many others. It is at this battle where Prince Imperial, the last Napoleon, perished. As you are seated in this hall, you are part of this great history. This great history has prompted Premier Sibusiso Ndebele to commission the erection of the statue of King Cetshwayo opposite that of Queen Victoria at the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature in Pietermaritzburg. This is an effort to invoke the spirit of our heroes, to invoke our greatness as a people and to place our heritage back onto the radar screen. After the Battle of Isandlwana, the Zulu people were relentlessly harassed, pursued and persecuted and ultimately subjected to colonization. Sir Theophilus Shepstone dismantled the very foundation of Zulu culture, namely Amabutho. Amabutho are usually associated with military activities. This was not necessarily the case. On the contrary they were a multifunctional social organization responsible for a wide range of activities. When young boys were ready to undergo initiation they were taught essential aspects of Zulu culture including ukuhlonipha (respect), courtesy, cleanliness, defense skills, hunting, etc. On finishing initiation they joined the older group. When they were old enough (16 upwards) they were then organized into regiments performing non-military functions. These functions included setting up and maintaining the King’s kraal, building the King’s palace and renovating it. Amabutho would even cook, which explains why even today in Zulu functions it is men that cook meat for all guests. A group called inqina would go all the way to hunt and assess the general state of the environment. All these activities including the essential course on respectful and proper behavior towards women and children were destroyed by the tidal wave of colonial conquest. However, colonialism was never accepted passively by the Zulu people. They challenged it so much that even when the curtain of the twentieth century opened the Bhambatha Uprising introduced new and dramatic episodes into our struggles. Bhambatha kaMancinza, under the wise direction of King Dinuzulu will go down in history as one of the greatest freedom fighters in world history along such heroes like Sun Tzu, Hoh Chih Minh and Ernesto Che Guevara. It became proper therefore that the year 2006 be declared as the Bhambatha Centenary year in KwaZulu-Natal as you may have seen events since the beginning of the year. We are also part of a sad history of Apartheid, an ideology that was defined by the United Nations as “a crime against humanity”. It was the Brazilian philosopher Paolo Freire who said “education is a two edged sword. It can be repressive or liberating”. Protagonists of Apartheid made huge efforts to ensure that in the bloody gladiatorial contest, “Black Education” is attacked via the repressive edge of the sword. In spite of inferior education under harsh conditions students were at the forefront of the struggle against this racist ideology as the events of 1976 show. The year 2006 is the 30th anniversary of the June 16 Uprising against Bantu education. With the advent of democracy and open government, a new landscape is emerging with it a new brand of challenges, opportunities and hope for a different and promising future. May I outline some of key strategic thrusts of the Provincial Government of KwaZulu-Natal as well as challenges and opportunities of our time. These are relevant for all of us gathered here today but most importantly for you graduates who will be venturing into the vast immensities of the real world. Government has a vision for social stability and economic growth which is encapsulated in the following: • That KwaZulu-Natal should be repositioned as an international destination for world class events, economic and intellectual exchange and as a cultural heritage haven because of our qualities of a breathtaking coastline, glowingly beautiful women, rolling hills and mountain ranges, blue skies and starlit nights, beautiful voices and a rhythm of life blessed with a warm climate. • That our heritage and culture is our distinctive feature and a uniting force, our unique identity, our link with our glorious past and that it is what carries the internationally renowned “Zulu” brand. • That in KwaZulu-Natal we have a monumental task to overcome HIV and AIDS because it threatens our very existence, it divides us and breeds mistrust and fear. • That we should transform and energise the civil service for greatly improved service delivery for a better quality of life for all people of the region. • That in KZN our massified ASGISA development projects are the Dube Trade Port, Agrarian Revolution, the King Senzangakhona Stadium and the Corridor development. • That whilst fighting poverty we shall strive to create wealth for the hitherto deprived to create icons of success and open up key industries for new up-and-coming entrepreneurs so that our graduates are not confined to the fate of employees but employers of the future! • That in KZN we shall hone our skills and widen the base of the skilled people so that we can manage the means of production effectively and hold our own in the industries of the region and country. As graduates and the society at large you have a government that has a vision and makes efforts to ensure that your investment in education is not in vain. Government is aware that the road to success is not paved in gold, it has numerous challenges such as that of balancing the developmental imperatives against global competitiveness. We have a challenge to eliminate the evils of crime, alcohol and drug abuse all of which have deeply eroded our social fabric. We have a challenge to balance the imperative to meet the expectation of the people we serve against the cold and ruthless gods of the market forces. We have the challenge of HIV and AIDS. As you join the professional world you will be active participants in the development of our country’s economy which finds itself globally connected in what Frances Cairncross has termed “the death of distance”. You will soon be head-hunted by recruitment agencies from Europe and the Middle East. You will face tough choices between country, family and the world of opportunities and wealth lying in far away lands. You will soon learn that life is about choices! I am longing to see graduates coming up with new innovations that will be exported all over the world as we have exported Black Mambazo, Lucky Dube and many others. During Apartheid our education was based on European epistemology. Throughout their four-year academic programmes, most education students were soldiered and drilled in a textbookish discipline called fundamental pedagogics. They in turn passed on this drill to our children. Contextual Theology, Black Theology or Radical Theology were not permitted It is only now that the works of John Mbiti, James Cone and Paul Tillich can be found in library shelves. Education thus was narrow and rigid. In science prominent African scientists were not invited to science conferences. But today we know of the likes of Philip Emeagwali, a computer scientist and genius whom former U.S. President Bill Clinton referred to as a “father of the internet”. We now know of Florence Wambugu, a world renowned geneticist from Kenya who has changed the way the world thinks about genetically modified products. True, even this university has produced young astronomers like Menzi Mchunu who underwent studies with NASA as well as the topologist Professor Themba Dube. It is also this University where the late Professor Mthembeni Zulu taught. Mthembeni Zulu wrote a mathematics textbook that was prescribed in some schools in Ohio in the United States in 1986. Nawe Ngoye kawumncinyane! However, I would like to challenge you graduates to explore African epistemology in the same way as the late Mazisi Kunene explored Zulu cosmology in literature. Kunene captures the rebirth of the human race in African epistemology as he says: “We were to clear the pathway for the new season We were to wait for the sign of the rainbow You were the promise, you were to lead the festival You were to come with ceremonial spears To celebrate at the top of the hill, To celebrate the birth of the sacred twins (Kunene 1982) It is my belief that intellectuals need to play an active role in the production, dissemination and institutionalization of knowledge. Knowledge, wrote Francis Bacon, is power. Power is about influence and about control of the intellectual, political, social, educational and economic spheres. As graduates going out there you have a challenge to make Africa and Africans visible and respected. Repression made Africans invisible. Ben Okri describes this “invisibility” in his book “Astonishing the Gods”. Referring to the young boy who was made to feel invisible, the writer says: “He was invisible. His mother was invisible too and that was why she could see him. He was sent to school where he learnt strange notions, odd alphabets, and where he discovered that time can be written down in words. It was in books that he first learnt of his invisibility. He searched for himself and his people in all history books he read and discovered to his youthful astonishment that he didn’t exist.” Out of a range of sources wherefrom we may draw strength for efforts for our visibility, we should draw from ourselves. We should draw from the right choices we make, no matter what! I would like to illustrate this point by narrating the story of two wolves. One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, laziness, superiority and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The grandson thought about this for a minute and asked his grandfather “Which wolf wins grandpa?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed!” With these words, I want to leave all graduates with my warmest wishes for you to feed the right wolf! Congratulations! Kwakuhle kwethu! Nina bakaZulu kaMalandela Nina bakaNodumehlezi kaMenzi Nina bakaQambula nkomo zilahlekile zawufa wumdlebe kwaSoshangane Nina beDwal’elibushelelezi elashelel’uPiti nendodana Nina bakaZitho y’magwegwe ngokugwegw’abakayise Ngingekohlwe izizukulwane zikaGandhi, noPaton, noColenso o Naicker no Ramgobin Nina bakaMamonga WoSuthu kabula’luyasizila uqoth’imbokode nesisekelo Udlothovu kabhekek’ufana nem’sebe yelanga Ngithi nina bengwazi nime njalo!
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