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Pregs Govender

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Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

Our Violent Society: Created In the Name of “Culture”

Fifteen years into liberation and democracy we should be guided by the way South Africa’s citizens created an inclusive human rights culture that values every person. Our Constitution upholds the right to religion, culture and language as long as these do not undermine the values enshrined there. The values of our democracy are clear: human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms.

Under apartheid the lives of the majority of South Africans were devalued — life was cheap and “culture” was used by the apartheid state to divide, exclude and dishonour. Despite the state’s oppression, a culture of resistance nourished poetry, art, music, theatre and dance, and people retained and evolved rich oral traditions. Culture as the values, beliefs and art that people use to define themselves changes and adapts as people change and adapt. However, apartheid attempted to calcify culture as a tool to divide and rule and had brutal success in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Many men in KwaZulu-Natal were mobilised or coerced into a “cultural” organisation on the basis of Zulu identity. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the apartheid state funded and armed this “cultural” organisation. Members of the Israeli security trained its deadliest members. The conflict that followed almost escalated into civil war in parts of South Africa. The TRC confirmed the “impi” had gone on a killing spree not just against other men, but also against women and children. Independent research into the violence confirmed that women’s and girls’ bodies were targeted in particularly vicious ways. This was not peculiar to these attacks — this viciousness was very much in line with that of the apartheid masters on women detainees, women on streets and farms and women in their own families.

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Love and Courage: Inciting Insubordination

Here is the The 2008 Julius Nyerere Lecture on Lifelong Learning speech I gave at the University of the Western Cape earlier this week.

Love and Courage: Inciting Insubordination

Thank you to the University of the Western Cape for ensuring that we do not forget a great teacher – Julius Nyerere. I am deeply honoured to present this year’s lecture. Thank you to Shirley Walters and all the staff of DLL for making today a gift for each guest here today – with music, poetry and flowers. Thank you to the UWC choir for the music and to Malika Ndlovu for a beautiful poem – may every one of us experience the generosity of spirit that moves you.

In honouring Julius Nyerere today I remembered that the highest form of praise is not to put those we honour on a pedestal – to turn them into saints or gods – but to understand and learn from their example. It is too easy to turn those we respect into saints or gods gilding over the lessons we could learn from their weaknesses and the effort they made to develop themselves.

The best teachers, like Nyerere, know that you do not ‘develop people’ as if they are empty vessels waiting to be filled with your wisdom or clay to be molded into the image you wish to carve out. The best teachers create the conditions in which people ‘develop themselves’, in which we recognize our own power and our beauty. Great teachers help us to develop the tools of analysis and understanding but it is through our own efforts that we reach clarity. It is through our own practice of the values they embody that we develop our own commitment to those values.

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5th Annual Julius Nyerere Lecture on Lifelong Learning

This Thursday, I’m honoured to be giving the 5th Annual Julius Nyerere Lecture on Lifelong Learning at the University of the Western Cape. My speech is called ‘Love and courage – inciting insubordination’. Here are the details – please come if you can:

UWC decided to name its Annual Lifelong Learning Lecture after Julius Kambarage Nyerere, recognising him as an influential and respected African political leader. He was acknowledged as a postcolonial thinker, a rare intellectual who was open to new ideas and criticism and displayed an independent mindedness that inspired so many. He saw education as a means of bringing about human liberation and equality in society. To him, education of individuals was seen mainly as a means of advancing the collective good of society.

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Youth and Peacebuilding: Coherence Between Declarations and Action

I was privileged to address the most recent Commonwealth Ministers of Youth Meeting, held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 28 April 2008. The speech I gave was later used as the basis for an article which will be published in a book for the Commonwealth Ministers. Here is the article:

By Pregs Govender

Many wonderful commitments to world peace have been made to the young men and women, the girls and boys of our world by the 53 independent states that make up the Commonwealth, in the Declarations by their Heads of Government. If these commitments were effected, there would be significant change – the kind of change that we hope for, the kind of change that our vision inspires us towards.

Yet we often despair at the lack of change and wonder why things remain the same or get worse. The age we live in is one in which young women and men face economic and religious fundamentalisms; unemployment and other factors that exacerbate poverty; diseases such as HIV/ Aids; increasing militarisation, war and deepening violence. Some countries are now characterised as war economies in which the largest employer is the army. The consequences for youth and peace building, across our world, are devastating.

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