“The University of Fort Hare is a well of change,” – Dr Pali Lehohla

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Opening his keynote address at the  Archbishop Thabo Makgoba 6th Annual Lecture, Dr Pali Lehohla, South Africa’s former and longest-serving Statistician-General,  reminded the audiences of the pivotal role played by the University of Fort Hare in the development of the country and the continent by saying: “The University of Fort Hare is a well of change. For this is where many a leader that formed the African anti-colonial movement and anti-apartheid struggle were schooled and tooled into a formidable front.”

The sixth installment was held on 23 August at the Miriam Makeba Arts Centre on the East London Campus. As per norm, the lecture themed: Leadership in Local Economic Development jointly hosted by the University’s Faculty of Management and Commerce and the Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust (ATMDT, created a platform for insightful and meaningful dialogue on matters of local economic development.

Giving background to the lecture was none other but the Archbishop himself who said: “The aim is to get people talking and reflect on the values and some of the practical things that people could do in their corners whether in academia or any of their God-given gifts. We are so proud to be associated with the University of Fort Hare through this mission to construct meaningful conversions on this theme.”

Since its inauguration at Fort Hare, the event has attracted highly influential guest speakers who are key role players in the economic development sector.  They include Ms Thokozile Xasa, then Minister of Sport and Recreation; Mr Tembinkosi Bonakele, former Commissioner at the SA Competition Commission; Dr Lulu Gwagwa, South African’s first black Town Planner; Dr Batandwa Siswana, public finance specialist; and Mr Luvuyo Mosana, the Chief Executive Officer at the Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Consultative Council (ECSECC).

Through his lecture, Dr Lehohla painted a picture of a hopeless South Africa and of a hopeful South Africa.

In depicting a hopeful South Africa, Dr Lehohla made reference to the BRICS Summit that was recently concluded in the country. “The BRICS 2023 Summit hosted by our President, Honourable Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa reminds us of the greatness of our country amongst nations. The BRICS in SA will go down in history as one of the gatherings of the global south, which represents the theme that Fort Hare led in the representative voice of Africa in President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle of Lesotho and Robert Mangoliso Sobukwe amongst many an anti-colonial and anti-apartheid political luminary.”

“This lecture comes at an opportune time, therefore. It sits at the nexus of hope and hopelessness. I am humbled to be one who has been chosen to present on this greater than life occasion.”

“This lecture also happens not only at a critical time but on a critical date in our calendar of our record of a charade of debilitating disappointments in our latter half of the three decades of post-apartheid South Africa experience. We are sadly reminded that on this very day the 23rd of August in 2021 Babita Deokaran, our martyr against corruption was assassinated.”

He further delves into several disappointing moments and actions that continue plunge to the country into a state of hopelessness such as corruption, unemployment, inequality, poor service delivery and xenophobia.

“Our Rainbow nation that we so prided ourselves in has become a stranger of its former self. President Mandela receiving Census 96 results from Statistics South Africa had a lot to say about the stature of South Africa and how not to disappoint those who brought us to power. He lectured us on the matter of remaining true to the nation and the world.”

He concludes his lecture by making a call to South Africans to keep their conscience alive and act on the words of Chief Albert Luthuli in his ten Commandments which states, “It is so easy to admire a person, to admire what he or she stood for or stands for, and yet shrink from cutting off the mission of the present.”

“As we gather today, we are reminded of the possibilities of the greatness of South Africa as one amongst nations.”