GRADUATION CEREMONY OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF ZULULAND


ADDRESS BY MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI, MP
CHANCELLOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ZULULAND,
AND MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS

UNIVERSITY OF ZULULAND, KWADLANGEZWA: MAY 26, 2000

The Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor C.R.M Dlamini; the Vice Rector, Professor Dube; Chairman and members of the Council; Dean of Faculties; members of the academic staff of the University; graduands; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.

Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to attend many historical events and entertain a dialogue with distinguished leaders, dignitaries and influential people. Among these, it has been a privilege to meet with men and women who contribute daily to moving our country towards success, through their personal dedication and commitment to delivering excellence in their chosen field. I know that each of these people have walked a road of focused effort which often began by discovering their individual strengths, and working to cultivate and grow their skills and talents. Year after year, as I attend the graduation ceremonies of the University of Zululand, I feel a great sense of inspiration, for it is here that I can see the beginning of such lives, founded in excellence.

Today, I wish to offer my congratulations to every graduate who has received recognition for the past years of hard work and focused commitment. I trust that today each of you has completed a vital stage in your journey of self-discovery, knowing that the years you have spent in study have taught you many valuable truths about personal endurance, ambition and direction. From my own experience at the University of Fort Hare and later at the University of Natal, I know that a university student learns more than that which is offered by his or her curriculum. Long hours of study, sacrifices of time and energy, the pressure of deadlines, and the greater pressure we often place upon ourselves to achieve, lend an opportunity to discover one's own limitations, strengths and passion to succeed.

For this reason, I feel that students graduating at the University of Zululand in the year 2000 are better equipped to engage their chosen course than many who are seeking direction and a place within South Africa's society. You may take pride in the fact that many of you have already discovered your areas of expertise and have taken the first steps towards developing a useful career. I speak of a useful career, rather than a successful one, for I believe that in our unique South African situation, individual success must largely be determined by the degree to which those around you are uplifted and liberated. We do not operate as individuals isolated from the society in which we live, but rather as building blocks which must be used together to create a sturdy edifice.

The South Africa in which we live today has not been founded upon stability, economic prosperity and peace. We are still working to achieve these things and South Africa requires an enormous united effort to reach the goals we have set. The task before us is to build a country which offers the hope that our future can indeed be one in which social justice, stability and equal opportunity are sovereign. Every South African who seeks a stake in this future has a personal responsibility to contribute to our effort. For this reason, I constantly urge young people to be aware of the role they have to play, not merely in creating their own future, but in building the collective future of our people. To be an effective building block in this effort demands that we seek individual excellence in a collective purpose.

As Chancellor of this University, I have had the opportunity to speak with other graduands before you, and have always been encouraged by the dynamic synthesis of youth and enthusiasm. However, over the years I have also become acutely aware that youthful idealism no longer exists as it once was known. Idealism frequently holds the connotation of an unrealistic approach, or a concept of the world developed outside an experience of the world, characterised by the inevitability of disillusionment. Idealists quickly discover that within a world fraught with social injustice and economic disparities, the ideal solution cannot be made to fit. When one looks back with the experience of life, the greatest foolishness of youth indeed appears as the ease with which one thought the world could be changed.

Yet today, young people have experienced much of real life even before completing tertiary education and have seen the reality of our world for themselves. Many of South Africa's youth have been forced to take on greater responsibilities by virtue of their adverse circumstances, placing them directly in the line of reality. The continuing scourge of poverty, unemployment, lack of opportunity and exposure and criminality, have hardened young people in South Africa, creating the need for sudden maturity and responsibility in behaviour and thought. The concept our young people develop of their world can no longer be formed outside an experience of reality, for reality is hard-hitting and ever present.

There is a sense of lost innocence in the death of idealism, yet such concerns are fleeting. When one considers the vast needs of South Africa and her people, it is in fact deeply encouraging to see idealism and its zeal to change propagating throughout the land. However, sometimes without knowing how, idealism is replaced with a recognition of the cold facts and an enthusiasm to change according to that which is practically needed. Today, young people have a better understanding of what needs to be achieved and how it may be accomplished. The enthusiasm which I have seen again and again in graduates of this University is by no means less fiery than the idealism of young people growing up in situations better than ours. Yet there is greater realism, which is of greater use.

South Africa needs the enthusiasm of young people who have studied to develop individual skills and talents, and who are eager to take on the job market. I can tell you now that your qualifications and knowledge will assist in finding a place within this market, but by far more valuable will be your enthusiasm. The truth is that unemployment remains high in our country. Approximately 32% of South Africans are without a stable source of income and there is no indication that this figure will substantially improve in the short-term. Wealth, opportunity and resources are, as yet, unevenly distributed. There are many skilled young people who will struggle to find employment and others who may not be able to enter their chosen field. These facts cannot be denied. However, I believe that the greatest resource one has in pursuing a goal, is the endurance to persevere.

As we face the challenges of the labour market and a poor economy, I believe that all South Africans should continue to equip themselves with knowledge and skills. This is equally relevant to young people and those who have been working for years, as well as relevant to the employed and the unemployed. There is no substitute for knowledge. The more you learn, the further your horizons expand and the greater the opportunities for useful employment. Young people should also be cognisant of the needs of the present. Information technology and computer skills are increasingly in demand as we move into the global village. I do not believe that in the year 2000, there is any justification for a graduating student who is unable to operate a computer.

I have spoken on many occasions about the need for South Africa to leapfrog into a future of technological competence. We are all aware of the rapid technological development characterising the 21st century. If we wish to put our country on a course towards prosperity, there is no other road to take but that of skills development and technical training. It stands to reason that we need those who have knowledge to teach those who are without. The knowledge and skills which graduating students have acquired through a university career, can be applied to teach those around them. If we wish to bridge the lack of opportunity, employment and resources, we cannot afford to think in the same old ways, but must become creative in our approach to employment.

If you are unable to find the job you wanted, or enter the field for which you studied immediately after leaving this University, there is no shame in using your time and talents to teach others while furthering your own experience. There are countless mediums through which to access knowledge and endless resources through which to expand your skills. The only shame in not getting the job you wanted straight away is to stop pursuing it, or to sit back idly and wait for opportunities to come rolling in. There is an enormous sea of need to be tackled and the enterprising mind will certainly find useful employment. In teaching and learning from others, you may make precious contacts or build a team of people who share your passion and can push your own dream forward.

The spirit of entrepreneurship has taken fire within the vast potential of South Africa. It is this same spirit that I have always summoned when I called for a culture of self-help and self-reliance to substitute the absence of support and funding which we often experienced in the past as communities, institutions and individuals. Much was wrongfully withheld during the years of apartheid. Yet even today as we have achieved a democratic government and laid the foundations for a system of equal opportunity, we do not have everything we need. South Africa needs to generate wealth before we can hope to distribute prosperity among the disadvantaged. Unless we dedicate ourselves in a national effort to pursue a new work ethic of self-discipline, sacrifice and productivity, we cannot hope to resurrect our failing economy.

The culture of self-discipline and productivity is one which cannot be forced upon any of us. It is a decision of commitment each of us must take alone, and one which we take to achieve personal fulfilment and a sense of collective goodwill. I believe that the graduates of the University of Zululand are well prepared to take this decision. You have started from a desire to achieve individual excellence. Your commitment to fulfilling this potential is embodied today in your graduation ceremony. I believe that the foundations have been laid for today's graduates to become leaders of a national effort of commitment to excellence. I have always been particularly proud of graduates of this University, not merely because of my close ties to this province and this institution, but because I recognise in these youth the hope of a future for which I have worked during my entire life.

I pray that none of you may become discouraged or give up hope for achieving the South Africa we dream of. It saddens me to see the headlines of international magazines and newspapers who, like doomsayers, announce the demise of Africa. This past week, 'The Economist' carried the headline "The hopeless continent", referring to Africa. Recent events across our border have reinforced an image developed over the years of political conflict, of dictatorial leaders with weakening support, a political situation out of balance and economies long past the brink of disaster. It seems that the latest trend in journalism is to point out how horrific the African plight truly is. This image is dangerously disproportionate to Africa's potential and can only do harm, both to Africa and to the developed world.

It is a historical fact that global progress takes place through the inter-development of rich and poor, developed and under-developed or developing countries. Indeed, South Africa is largely dependent on the support of, and exchange with, developed countries. However, South Africa is also a leader on the African continent and is committed to socio-economic upliftment within the Southern African region specifically, as well as the whole of Africa. I say these things because I wish our young people to understand that there is more to the African reality than is being shown in the media. Never before has our continent or our country been in a better position to fulfil their enormous potential. The dawn of the 21st century has seen the closing of a chapter written almost exclusively with the pen of conflict. The third millennium opens a new chapter.

The new chapter of our history must be written by those who see the great energy and wealth of our country, and who seek to speed reconciliation, genuine liberation and economic growth. The authors of this new chapter must be those who can lead the way with undaunted enthusiasm and a recognition of the immediate as well as the long-term needs of our country. I believe that these very people will be the ones who are already committed to excelling in their own lives and to achieving personal fulfilment. It is these individuals who will quickly learn that prosperity can only really be measured by the collective good any one person achieves. I trust that today's graduates are these very people.

With these few words, I wish to offer my congratulations both to the students and to the Faculty of the University of Zululand. I am proud to witness another generation of potential leaders and building blocks of our future graduates from this institution. May the good beginnings of your achievement here develop along a path of excellence so that through individual efforts, our collective future may be assured.

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