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Language and culture should be tools to cultivate reconciliation
Author: Rozanne Engel/Corporate Communication Division
Published: 15/11/2018

​​​“It is crucial that we do not use the language we speak and the culture we live as weapons against each other, but rather as tools to cultivate reconciliation. It is not just about being healed from the past, but about social justice and becoming active citizens of hope."

This was one of the key messages from Dr Marlene le Roux, who delivered the fourth annual Russel Botman Memorial Lecture at the Adam Small Theatre in Stellenbosch in October.

The Russel Botman Memorial Lecture is presented by the Faculty of Theology and the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology at Stellenbosch University (SU) and the curatoria of the Dutch Reformed Church and the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa. This lecture honours the values and life of the late rector and vice-chancellor of SU who passed away on 28 June 2014.

Dr Marlene le Roux, the chief executive officer of Artscape Theatre Centre in Cape Town – both the first woman and the first 'black' person to fill this position – gave a humorous and inspiring lecture. She not only shared anecdotes from her long friendship with Prof. Botman, but also challenged the audience to do better in their daily lives as an example for future generations.​​



“It is crucial that we set an example with our deeds, that our words correspond with our actions and that our deeds be true. The legacy of Russel Botman must proceed from words to action. He was a theologian of action. He didn't preach to be liked. He put theology into action and preached about politics, poverty and inequality. He became a preacher of hope," said Le Roux.

In July 2010, Prof Russel Botman launched the HOPE Project, an initiative that implements a science-for-society strategy aimed at tackling and solving challenges that are uniquely African with the use of state-of-the-art facilities and expertise from pioneers in various fields. This approach allows for a confrontation of global challenges and provides ideal opportunities for learning, shaping the new generation into hopeful leaders.

Le Roux believes that the HOPE Project was a natural outflow of Prof. Botman's activism and his theology of hope. “Russel deeply believed that there is hope for millions of people on the African continent. For him hope was not just faith in a better future – it had to be created and it had to be offered to disadvantaged communities. He reiterated that the HOPE Project is the University's way of living up to these responsibilities."

Le Roux has worked in the arts for many decades and received many awards for her work, including the Chevalier des Ordres et des Lettres by the French government for promotion of the performing arts and the Gold Mayor's Medal of the City of Cape Town for promotion of the arts. In her lecture she also touched on Prof. Botman's love of the arts and his belief in the important role it could play in overcoming the divisions and strife of the past and that it can play a liberating role in the whole of South African society.

“It was Russel Botman's vision to break down the categories that divide and dehumanise us through culture and song to set us free. He was an activist of culture and saw that songs can be a bridge to overcome the divisions from the past, through human compassion and respect. I believe Russel Botman has left a legacy of hope behind, not only as theologian and pedagogue, but also as a lover and promoter of the arts," said Le Roux.


Russel Botman Bursary Fund

The recipients of the Russel Botman Bursary Fund (RBBF), which was established on  Botman's 60th birthday on 18 October 2013, are introduced. An appeal is also made for donations to the Fund.

The recipients include the following SU students:

RBBF bursars.JPG

  •  Sandiso Sogula, third-year LLB
  • Ayanda Bless, second-year Occupational Therapy
  • Nandipha Dlamini, third-year BSc AgriSciences (Animal Sciences)
  • Nomalinge Mzaza, third-year LLB
  • Christina van Eck, final-year BA (Language and Culture).

The late Prof. Botman was passionate about creating opportunities for deserving students to gain access to higher education. And it is through this legacy of Prof. Botman that SU will continue to honour with the help of donations.

For more information on the RBBF and details on how to donate, click here.


 Photo: Four of the recipients (on the left in front) stand with Prof Nico Koopman, Prof Reggie Nel​, Prof Xolile Simon , Dr Beryl Botman and Dr Marlene le Roux. 

Photo: Anton Jordaan