Freedom celebration hits the right notes

23 May 2014 | Story by Newsroom

The UCT community gathered on the Green Mile on Thursday, 22 May 2014, to celebrate twenty years of freedom in South Africa, and to commemorate the life and legacy of the nation's late great leader, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo opened proceedings with a call for "sombre reflection" '“ on the state of our society and the legacy of the fight against apartheid '“ before the evening's celebrations.

UCT's Chair of Council, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane received huge applause when he told the company that they were gathered "to honour one of the greatest men that ever lived: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela".

"We're gathered here after twenty years of freedom, and what a freedom it is," said Ndungane. "Here is a man that gave his life for the greatest cause '“ the liberation of humanity.

"We take pride in his single-minded conviction that education is the greatest engine for self-development, where the child of a mine-worker can become the owner of the mine, and the child of a domestic worker can become a doctor, and the child of peasants can become the president of a great nation."

The 20 Years of Freedom event served as an opportunity for the university to honour the late statesman by renaming Ring Road, which encircles Upper Campus, as Madiba Circle / iSekile kaMadiba / Madiba Sirkelpad.

The university dedicated the road to Mandela instead of building a statue in his image, said Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price, as the famous path was "an avenue that embraces multiple activities and people, that holds diversity in its arms, whose name will be frequently on people's lips as they move from venue to venue, and each time will remind people of the values for which Madiba stood".

Twenty years can fly by in a heartbeat, as those who were around in 1994 can attest. With this in mind, the university had decided to capture a little slice of 2014 in a time capsule, explained Nhlapo, which would remind future generations of what twenty years of democracy meant for UCT. Objects such as the special Monday Monthly edition in commemoration of Madiba's passing, a rugby ball signed by this year's champion Ikey Tigers team, and a T-shirt from the university's "We Say Enough" march against violence were just some of the items that would be placed in the capsule for posterity.

Celebration followed the official ceremony, with Vusi 'The Voice' Mahlasela's sounds reverberating through the crowd. He was followed by an energetic PJ Powers, joined on stage by the Indigenous Dance Academy from Tembisa.

An all-star ensemble was completed by local acts Freshlyground and Mi Casa, who thrilled the crowd with smash hits and covers that had students dancing like exams were not around the corner.

Despite the last note being belted out at 23h30 sharp, the concert had Capetonians buzzing well into the early hours of Friday morning, with #UCTFreedomConcert trending on Twitter in the Mother City.

Watch the video playlist of UCT's 20 Years of Freedom celebrations

Story by Yusuf Omar. Image by Nardus Engelbrecht.

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