The Inaugural Field Marshall Jan Smuts Memorial Lecture '“ held on 12 September, the 64th anniversary of the former UCT Chancellor's death '“ was delivered by Prof Bill Nasson, following a wreath laying by Smuts Hall students and alumni at Smuts' statue in the Company's Gardens. Men's Residence became Smuts Hall in 1950 when Smuts died.
In the centenary year of the German South West Africa campaign lead by Smuts and Botha, Nasson outlined South Africa's role in the conflict with a critical examination of the motives for participating.
The defeat of the Kaiser's forces marked the first victory of the war for imperial forces and Smuts tried to engineer a swap of the barren wastes for Portuguese East Africa to give South Africa more ports, more farmland and a source of mine labour.
In essence, Nasson argued, World War I provided Smuts with the opportunity to continue Rhodes' Cape To Cairo grand scheme with South Africa rather than Britain in the driving seat. Another chance to take on the Kaiser in German East Africa came too, but it was the polar opposite of the earlier swift campaign and was, in fact, the last theatre of war in the global conflict.
Smuts' many other attributes notwithstanding, Nasson did not shower praise on his military role, nor his relentless scheming for territorial expansion and dubbed him a "four foot leader of a five foot country".
It fell to Judge Pat Tebbutt now in his 91st year, the only person present who had frequently met "Oubaas" as a student and during his early journalistic career, to move a vote of thanks. It was also the occasion to confer on Tebbutt the honour of Patron of the Smuts Hall Alumni Association.
Image by Je'nine May.
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