Speaking the truth

18 August 2008 | Photo University of Cape Town.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu urged UCT students to be the watchdogs of the country's young democracy.

"I say to you we have something that is fragile, special. It could disintegrate, and we have no-one but yourselves," said Tutu of South Africa's democracy at a human rights forum, Speak Truth to Power, held at UCT on 11 August. Tutu also pleaded with the students to value the country's democratic transition.

The event, which attracted a full house at the Kramer Law Building, was also attended by leading human rights activists from Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Liberia.

The Speak Truth to Power forum, which is a division of the Robert F Kennedy Memorial, seeks to promote a human-rights culture across the globe. The occasion also saw Kerry Kennedy, a leading international human rights activist, sign copies of her new book, Speak Truth to Power.

UCT vice-chancellor Dr Max Price described the event as uplifting.

"It's an inspiring occasion," said Price. "If any student felt that there are no causes, the speeches today should indicate that there is much to be done to preserve our democracy. It shows that our democracy depends on them."

Kenyan activist Koigi wa Wamwere warned that there is no country in Africa safe from negative ethnicity.

In turn, Rivonia trialist Denis Goldberg, a UCT graduate who was sentenced to life imprisonment along with former President Nelson Mandela, said he was pleased that UCT is transforming. Goldberg urged the students to stop blaming other people and be the ones who "speak truth to power".

"I hope you will be the glory of South Africa," he said.

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