Despite feeling a bit "presumptuous" in doing so instead of his non-retired colleagues, it was like a "disciplined prisoner that still obeys orders" that struggle hero Ahmed Kathrada accepted the task of responding to UCT's vice-chancellor on behalf of himself and his fellow honorary graduates and graduands.
With mirth floating through Smuts Dining Hall, the 86-year-old former Robben Island political prisoner proposed a toast, thanking the university and Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price for that "singular honour".
Kathrada chose to do justice to the occasion by quoting excerpts from late former president Nelson Mandela's book, Conversations with Myself.
"There is a universal respect and even admiration for those who are humble and simple by nature, and who have absolute confidence in all human beings irrespective of their social status," Kathrada quoted. "These are men and women, known and unknown, who have declared total war against all forms of gross violation of human rights, wherever in the world such practices occur.
"Their efforts and achievements are recognised ... even far beyond the borders of their own countries. They become immortal."
Kathrada, Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela, and Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke all received honorary doctorates in law, and Professors Okwui Enwezor and John Wright were to receive honorary doctorates in literature.
"I'm in the presence of such people today," he concluded.
Kathrada was speaking at a cocktail on 11 June arranged to congratulate them, as well UCT's latest crop of PhDs, and the winners of the 2015 UCT Book Award (Assoc Prof Sa'diyya Shaikh), the Creative Works Award (Professor Mark Fleishman) and the Meritorious Book Award (Professor Hanri Mostert and Assoc Prof Xolela Mangcu).
Story by Yusuf Omar. Photo by Michael Hammond.
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