The late Prof Russel Botman was committed to the achievement of equality and worked towards ridding society of the scourge of poverty.
This was the view of Justice Zak Yacoob, Retired Judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, on Wednesday (18 October 2017).
He delivered the third annual Russel Botman Memorial Lecture at the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University (SU). The lecture, held in honour of the late Prof Russel Botman, former Rector and Vice-Chancellor of SU, was hosted by the Faculty of Theology in collaboration with the curatoria of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church and the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology.
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In his speech Yacoob highlighted Botman's commitment to, among others, equality, justice, transformation, human dignity and freedom.
He said equality, which is crucial to the achievement of a true socially just democracy, was close to Botman's heart.
“We must remember the Professor by committing ourselves to the achievement of substantive equality through affirmative action."
“To remember Professor Botman, all of us must continue to work with zeal, courage, determination and sacrifice towards the vision of our future society envisaged in our Constitution".
Yacoob said that we must also do all we can to hasten the transformation of our society, empower weak and vulnerable people and contribute to the elimination of discrimination.
He added that if Prof Botman were alive today he would have urged us to make social and economic rights a reality for millions of South Africans still trapped in poverty.
“The implementation of social and economic rights is essential to the reconstruction of society and, as the Professor pointed out in his Aberdeen lecture, instrumental in the alleviation of poverty.
Unfortunately, government is not heeding this message Yacoob said.
“The failure of the state to implement social and economic rights constitutes a significant violation of all of the civil and political rights in the Constitution."
Yacoob said corruption is the reason why government struggles to implement these rights.
He encouraged all South Africans to speak out courageously against corruption, to take part in anti-corruption activities, to strengthen civil society and to oppose corruption at every turn.
Yacoob said that if Botman were alive today he would have been at the forefront of the fight against corruption, whatever the consequences.
In her response to the Yacoob's speech, Prof Sandy Liebenberg of SU's Faculty of Law highlighted Botman's commitment to transformation.
“With Russel's inauguration, the pace of transformation at Stellenbosch University quickened. Russel understood that socio-economic rights were about justice."
She added that Botman was a model of visionary and ethical leadership.
Prof Wim de Villiers, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of SU, welcomed the guest and said the fact that the University is on course to become more future-focused and inclusive is in large measure thanks to Botman.
“Botman's legacy has kept us on course over the last few years. We owe Prof Botman a great deal."
- Photo: Justice Zak Yacoob delivers the Russel Botman Memorial Lecture
- Photographer: Stefan Els