South Africa: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa – University of Venda Graduation Ceremony

Address by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the University of Venda Graduation Ceremony, University of Venda, Thohoyandou

Chancellor of the University of Venda, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe,

Chairperson of Council, Mr Serobi Maja,

Deputy Chairperson of Council, Thovhele MPK Tshivhase,

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, Prof Jan Crafford,

President of Convocation, Mr Levy Ndou,

Director of Student Affairs, Dr Catherine Selepe,

SRC President, Ms Mashudu Nthulane,

Members of Council and Senate,

University management and staff,

Traditional leaders,

Religious leaders,

Invited guests,

University of Venda alumni,

Students and graduands,

Ladies and gentlemen.

I am honoured and deeply humbled that this esteemed university has chosen to award me this honorary doctorate. I accept it with an immense sense of gratitude.

While this honorary degree is conferred on an individual, it has been earned by a generation. For everything that this honour recognises is the product of common will and collective effort. It is the product of a generation that was schooled in the crucible of struggle to serve selflessly, without expectation of reward or recognition.

It is a generation to whom history assigned a great responsibility, to join with those who had come before to fight for the liberation of our people from the demeaning strictures of racial tyranny.

It is to that generation of freedom fighters, many whose names are unknown and whose deeds are unrecorded, that I dedicate this honour. This graduation ceremony, however, is about another generation. It is about the generation that proudly counts among its ranks those that are graduating here today.

It is about a generation that is finding its voice and discovering its purpose. This is the generation that has brought down the statues of imperialists. This is the generation that – as it has sought to remove these monuments to oppression and dispossession – has had to grapple with the debilitating legacy of colonialism and apartheid.

A legacy that has trapped so many people in unemployment and poverty.

This is the generation whose angry and insistent cries for free education continue to reverberate through the corridors of power. This is the generation that is determined to change the things it can no longer accept.

Today, as we celebrate your academic achievement, as we applaud your resolve and commitment, we can say with confidence that this is the generation that will rekindle the revolution. For history has determined that this generation too must shoulder great responsibility.

History has determined that this generation must lead. It has been the task of earlier generations to defy unjust laws, to take up arms against the oppressor, to render apartheid South Africa ungovernable, and to build a new democratic order.

It is the task of this generation to fundamentally transform our society. It is the task of this generation to realise the vision of the Freedom Charter. This is the generation that will open the doors of learning to all.

Just as the members of this generation have benefited from the struggles of their parents and grandparents for a decent education, just as they have benefited from the sacrifices made in the face of apartheid terror, we know that this generation will light the path for the next.

This is the generation that will organise, agitate, mobilise and relentlessly strive until free higher education for the poor has been realised. To do that, this generation must combat the complacency and lethargy that can too easily overcome our institutions.

It must root out waste and corruption and excess. It must approach its tasks with intellectual courage and rigour.

It should heed the words of the great African intellectual and revolutionary Amilcar Cabral, when he said:

Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories.

This generation, like those that have come before, must resist the allure of easy victories. Most importantly, it must look to the future.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is the generation that will have the honour – and must shoulder the responsibility – to realise the 2030 vision of the National Development Plan. We look to those who are graduating here today to take the lead in raising employment through faster economic growth. We look to you to be at the forefront of the fundamental transformation of our economy.

We are certain that you will direct your skills, knowledge, ingenuity and consciousness towards the eradication of poverty.

We are certain that you will constitute a cadre of professionals that will give effect to the injunction that the people shall share in the country’s wealth.

You will bring about new ways of work. You will innovate. You will lead our continent into an age of inclusive and sustainable technology-driven growth. It is you who will lead in improving the quality of education and uplifting the skills of our people.

The struggles that are being waged on our campuses today should not blind us to the educational needs of those who are now barely old enough to talk.

Unless we attend to early childhood development with as much urgency and as much vigour as we pursue access to higher education, we will merely perpetuate the inequality and poverty of the past.

Unless we ensure that all children have a decent education, unless we ensure that all of them – boys and girls – are able to complete their schooling, we will not achieve a prosperous, inclusive society. We look to many of those who are graduating here today to join the ranks of the public service and to be part of building a capable developmental state.

Our country needs public servants who have capacity and commitment, but also an innate desire to serve the people and to advance society. It is always a joy for me to meet students who have graduated from this university in government and in the corporate world.

This university must continue to be a reservoir of talent, integrity and social consciousness. This university must continue to produce the great leaders who will change society. This is the generation that we look to renew our revolution.

It must correct where we have erred. It must resume where we have faltered.

Where we have been diverted by self-interest, by factional disputes, by the trappings of power, this generation must return us to the correct path. Where our principles have been eroded, where our symbols have been co-opted, the generation represented here must restore the founding values of our nation.

It must replicate the qualities of leadership embodied by Nelson Mandela and the other great leaders of his generation. It should seek to emulate their discipline, humility, selflessness, kindness and undying commitment to the service of the people.

This is a generation that builds, that creates, that innovates. It does not burn libraries. It does not destroy art. This is a generation that does not accept that the wilful and senseless destruction of property is a legitimate response to discontent and dissatisfaction.

This is a generation that refuses to destroy its future. Instead, it imagines a different society and it sets out to achieve it. It builds a just society, a caring society, in which the most vulnerable are the most valued. This generation imagines a different institution of higher learning.

This is an institution where class, race and gender present no barrier to entry – an institution that responds directly and deliberately to the needs of the poor, dispossessed and disempowered. This is an institution constituted not only as a site of learning, but also as an agent of economic, social and cultural change.

This is an institution whose faculty reflects in both its composition and values the diversity of the society in which it is located. The University of Venda is well-placed to be such an institution. This university has a rich history and a special proximity to the people it serves.

More than many others, the University of Venda is well situated to respond to the needs of those who live in rural areas ravaged by poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment. To these people it can provide assurance that we are succeeding in our struggle to make higher education accessible and affordable to all.

Through its programmes, ethos, curriculum and research, it should forge a new culture of African scholarship. Like its ancient African predecessors, it must draw to its halls of learning scholars from across the continent. It must defy the arbitrary borders imposed by colonial powers who sought to subjugate by division.

The immensity and diversity of the African continent is matched only by the opportunity and hope it represents. The University of Venda must seize that opportunity and foster that hope. This university is giving birth to a new generation.

This is the generation that will transform our society and fundamentally change our world. This is the generation that will readily shoulder the burden of restoring and revitalising our revolution.

As we leave this hallowed place of learning, we should again by guided by the words of Amilcar Cabral, when he said:

We must act as if we answer to – and only answer to – our Ancestors, our children and the unborn.

I thank you. Ndolivhuha!

Source: South African Government.