VC Dr Saleem Badat’s opening address at the Desmond Tutu Hall naming ceremony
The honourable Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Ms. Amina Cachalia, daughter Coco and grandson Yusuf; the family members of Ellen Kuzwayo – Boitumelo and Petini; Nomonde Calata and daughter Tumani, DVC Sizwe Mabizela; members of the senior management; Hall Fellows, House Wardens, the 337 students of the Desmond Tutu Hall, ladies and gentlemen – molweni, good evening, welcome.
Tonight’s naming ceremony successfully completes the newest residential development project at our university: the Ellen Kuzwayo, Amina Cachalia and Calata residences and the Desmond Tutu Hall.
Almost 50% of Rhodes students live in residences. Residences play a very important role in the life of students, and there is a strong tradition of student governance which provides leadership opportunities. House Committees play an important role in inducting students in the values, ethos and spirit of a residence.
Naming, you will appreciate, is more than simply attaching a name to a building. It is also a reflection of ethical commitments and a key component of institutional culture.
What things are named, for whom, in remembrance of whom, honouring what, and in what language, is critical in how members of an institution experience a sense of place and belonging.
This evening we celebrate not only the continuing growth and development our beautiful campus, but also the continuing transformation of Rhodes, with the naming of buildings in honour of heroes who, through their convictions, actions and struggles, gave us democracy and the precious new freedoms that we today enjoy.
As a university whose slogan is ‘Where Leaders Learn,’ we are privileged and proud to have the honour of naming our new residences and hall after Ellen Kuzwayo, Amina Cachalia, James and Fort Calata and Archbishop Tutu.
All of them stand out as inspirational and extraordinary lives, outspoken stands against apartheid and racial tyranny and determined in their fight for non-racialism, non-sexism, social justice and human rights.
All are courageous, responsible and ethical leaders who also embody the Rhodes motto and values of ‘Strength, Virtue, Truth’ and beacons of
« the Truth that derives from knowledge, understanding, reason, and from intellectual debate and the open and respectful clash of ideas
« the Virtue of respect for human dignity, human rights, social justice and social compassion, and of
« the courage to stand up to oppression and injustice and ‘speak truth to power’, when those in power must be reminded of their obligations and responsibilities, and when they must be criticized for failings in public leadership and morality.
Ellen Kuzwayo House is named after an anti-apartheid struggle hero and campaigner for women’s rights. Her life and work embodied the spirit of humanity and humility that made her an institution in Soweto and greater Johannesburg. Popularly known as Ma K, she was a teacher, social worker, community leader and mentor.
Ma K trained as a teacher at Lovedale College in Alice, but gave up teaching in 1952 when the Bantu Education Act was introduced, saying she did not have the strength or courage to teach her pupils ‘what appeared to be very poisonous to their minds.’
She went on to study social work at the University of the Witwatersrand and became actively involved in the protest movement after the 1976 Soweto uprising.
Her 1985 autobiography Call me Woman, details many of her experiences and she became the first black writer to be awarded the CNA Literary Prize.
In 1994, at the age of 79, she became a member of South Africa’s first democratic parliament.
Fort Calata was a political activist and a friend of the community. He was the grandson of Reverend Canon James Arthur Calata who was an accused in the Treason Trial of the late 1950s alongside people like Nelson Mandela.
Named by his grandfather, Fort Calata grew up to become a teacher at Sam Xhallie High School in Cradock. Here, together with fellow teacher Matthew Goniwe, he established the Cradock Residents Association to fight conditions in the townships and to join the United Democratic Front to fight apartheid.
Fort Calata also served as chairperson of the Cradock Youth Association, through which he worked to instil discipline and a love for learning in the children of the area.
On the night of 27 June 1985, Fort Calata, Matthew Goniwe, Sparrow Mkonto and Sicelo Muhlauli (the so-called Cradock Four) did not return home as expected after attending a political meeting in Port Elizabeth. They were brutally murdered by security police and their bodies burnt.
Rhodes already has an academic chair to honour Matthew Goniwe. Through the name of a new residence, we now honour Fort and James Calata.
Amina Cachalia House takes the name of a woman who embodies the qualities of selflessness, humility, compassion, courage, and determination.
Amina Cachalia was born into a politically militant family, and from an early age was a member of the Transvaal Indian Congress.
In 1948 she helped launch the Women’s Progressive Union, and in 1954 the Federation of South African Women to oppose the extension of pass laws to African women. This culminated in the famous 1956 anti-pass march of 20 000 women to the Union Buildings.
Ms. Cachalia was also involved with Lillian Ngoyi and Helen Joseph in the Human Rights Welfare Committee. After the Rivonia Trial, she had imposed on her three consecutive banning orders and spent 15 years under house-arrest. Undaunted, she continued to fight apartheid until freedom in 1994.
When Archbishop Tutu retired in 1996, Tatamkulu Nelson Mandela honoured him with these words: ‘His joy in our diversity and his spirit of forgiveness are as much part of his immeasurable contribution to our nation as his passion for justice and his solidarity with the poor.’
Widely described as ‘South Africa’s moral conscience,’ Archbishop Tutu continues to campaign vigorously for human rights throughout the world.
Between 1976 and 1978 while he was the Bishop of the Anglican Church in Lesotho and the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, and following the 1976 Soweto Uprising, Archbishop Tutu become increasingly outspoken about apartheid and black oppression and social injustice.
In 1984 Archbishop Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1985, he was appointed the Bishop of Johannesburg and a year later he became the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town.
Following the democratic elections in 1994, President Mandela asked Archbishop Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
A tireless humanitarian and fighter for justice, he has spoken out on, amongst other issues, repression in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe; the tardy attention to HIV/Aids in South Africa and the oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli state.
When Rhodes University bestowed an Honorary Doctorate on Archbishop Tutu in 2005, the intention was to honour a person whose achievements would serve as a wonderful symbol and example for the University.
This evening we have the great honour of naming a student hall after an exceptional human and great man who will continue to inspire generations to come.