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YOLANDE DU PREEZ
“I SPEAK African; surrender is not an option.” This was one of many positive messages relayed yesterday at the graduation of 140 students from Unisa’s Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute.
Addressing the institute’s class of 2011 at their graduation ceremony at Unisa yesterday, former president Thabo Mbeki said he was pleased and proud of the “human capital” his leadership institute had shaped.
The institute is uniquely African and aims to create positive and strong leaders with an African vision for the future.
Welcoming guests to the ceremony, Unisa principal Professor Mandla Makhanya encouraged them to sing and dance.
“As with all graduation ceremonies, one should be excited and if you are excited you have to make some noises. So make some noises and as you cheer you have to dance.
“It is important to express that excitement with noises and dancing – it goes hand in hand.”
Makhanya referred to education in SA as a “sleeping lioness that has been awakened”.
“Strong leadership will drive us forward and upwards. The possibilities are endless,” he said.
Clever Bere, a 2011 institute student, wished Mbeki a belated happy 70th birthday. “Your guidance will help produce great leaders like Nelson Mandela and yourself,” he said.
Bere said a vital aspect of the institute was that it brought leaders from all parts of the continent together.
Graduates are from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon and other countries.
Valeska Erlank, a 2012 student, thanked the institute team for its help during her six-month programme. “You have given me the opportunity to broaden my mind and think positively about Africa.”
Erlank’s favourite part of the course was the conflict management module. “There is conflict in every day and this module addresses the critical aspects of dealing with that. We should promote peace among fellow brothers and sisters,” she said.
Mbeki had given her the insight and opportunity to fight for African renewal.
“Africa is our home and it belongs to all who live in it,” Erlank said.
Institute lecturer Professor Hellicy Ngambi said she had quoted Mbeki’s work so many times since 1998 that some said she was in love with the former president.
“I had come to admire Mbeki and his love and vision for Africa. He has marked the way forward and inspires me,” she said, to great applause.
Unisa council chairman Dr Mathews Phosa thanked Mbeki for the work he had done in Africa.
The institute’s aim is to help students acquire skills and become agents of positive African change. It also aims to be the centre of choice for research, teaching and dialogue.
It owes it origin to discussions that took place between Mbeki and many of his peers about what he would do once he had completed his term as president.