Wits University vice-chancellor Prof Zeblon Vilakazi at Wits University’s Great Hall, in Johannesburg. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Wits University vice-chancellor Prof Zeblon Vilakazi at Wits University’s Great Hall, in Johannesburg. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

I listened carefully to Wits University vice-chancellor Prof Zeblon Vilakazi’s inaugural speech last week. One of many highlights was that “we need to graduate brave, principled, formidable individuals, guided by reason, factfulness and deep thought, and grounded in the principles of ethics and civic responsibility”.

He also said there was a need for citizens to “break out of their narrow enclaves”, and “to become beacons of what is possible”. Our lives must be guided by reason, factfulness and deep thought, he said. Obviously, the opposite of this is too ghastly to contemplate, as it would be informed by the reckless language of political fanaticism.

Differing with others must be based on respect and sound knowledge, and must never be informed by ill-intention, insults, ridicule, belittling and othering. Let us strive to emulate our past leaders: the Sobukwes, Mandelas, Bikos, Mothopengs, Tutus, Huddlestons and Hanis; and the many others who populate our country. Women and men of honour and dignity.

Racial hatred and its pursuance is evil, and should be rejected. Yet its stereotypes still thrive under the leadership of people such as EFF leader Julius Malema. How often have we heard him and his ilk hurl insults at those he disagrees with, including his political opponents and people who do not look like him?

Philosopher Voltaire reminded humanity that “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend unto death the right to say it”. I thank Vilakazi for his wise words. I trust they will help us to be “beacons of what is possible”.

Jo-Mangaliso Mdhlela,Via e-mail

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