Baggage of the past

13 April 2015

Prof Hugh Corder
Department of Public Law

"For me, this issue is all about transformation. On the immediate issue of the fate of the statue, I align myself entirely with the Senate resolution. In its place, I want no statue, just a plaque, explaining what was on that spot, and why it was removed.

"Yet the statue is the trigger for the outpouring of frustration that many students feel. The protests ignore what has been repeatedly and seriously attempted, both to widen student access and support and to pursue staff development, focussing on black South African, over at least the past 25 years at UCT. Yet we have not succeeded, racism remains subliminally and subtly in many aspects of what we do, because we are part of South Africa.

"One utterly imperative aspect is often lost in these uncomfortable times. Transformation goes beyond (the required) demographic changes, to a focus also on class origins: to an institutional culture based on the values set out in the Constitution and the achievement of social justice. We cannot wish away our past, every single one of us carries that baggage, no matter what our culture, race, religion, class, gender, etc may be. Unless we confront these pasts honestly, we are doomed to repeat their injustices and evils.

"So, we must all listen and consider carefully all views expressed, and insist on the discipline of fair process and rationality in argument.

"We must demand respect for dignity at every stage of this journey, no matter what barbs are flung at us: this is the only way to the least unjust solution for us all. It's hard to do, and requires courage. Of one thing I am absolutely sure: on all sides, the resort to grandstanding and simplistic solutions is extremely unhelpful, and frankly damaging."

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