“My experience of Russel Botman in the late 1990s showed a visionary scholar and ecumenist who was very clear about the urgency of the task of unmasking injustice in every form."
These were the words of Reverend Dr Setri Nyomi, who delivered the fifth Russel Botman memorial lecture at the faculty of Theology last week (17 October 2019).
Rev Dr Nyomi is a Ghanaian theologian who has served as a General Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. He is an ecumenical leader known for his commitment to the mission of the church and its relevance to the 21st century.
In his talk, titled Justice for all. The time for change is now, Rev Dr Nyomi said, for the late Prof Botman, unmasking injustice was already an urgent task even in the 1990s. “The time for engaging in this enterprise was not in some distant future. It had been now for Russel. Therefore, to talk about 'now' is actually understating the urgency," said Rev Dr Nyomi.
Rev Dr Nyomi gave a continental overview of injustices that happened in Africa since colonialism.
“As a young minister of the then Dutch Reformed Mission Church, Russel had a very strong ecumenical vision with a core component of leadership in the area of justice; I met Russel in that context," he added.
In closing, Rev Dr Nyomi spoke about how he had heard about this young South African theologian whose thinking was making waves in the Reformed family worldwide. He said their conversations were focussed around the urgency of the task of breaking the chains of injustice.
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. The lecture honours the values and life of the late rector and vice-chancellor of SU who passed away on 28 June 2014.
Dr Beryl Botman, wife to the late Prof Botman, gave a vote of thanks towards the end of the night. She said, as the Botman family, they insisted on expressing gratitude. “We are thankful for his life, and everything he has done, long live Russel," she added.
Prof Ingrid Woolgard, Dean at the Faculty of Economic Management Sciences at Stellenbosch University, responded to the keynote address.
Prof Woolgard thanked Rev Dr Nyomi for his provocative continental talk. “We need to work toward access to health care, higher education, lack of housing and shelter. Social inequalities in South Africa signify injustices, deprivation and hardships.
“To reduce inequality means to redistribute resource; policies need to shift. There has to be a capping for executive pays, job guarantee schemes and more generous social protection."
The recipients of the Russel Botman Bursary Fund (RBBF) were introduced and an appeal for donations was made to friends, family and colleagues to contribute to the fund in lieu of gifts.
The late Prof Russel Botman's passion for creating opportunities for deserving students to gain access to higher education, led to him establishing the Russel Botman Fund on his 60th birthday on 18 October 2013.
This year's Russel Botman Bursary Fund recipients are:
- Emma Jane Poole: BA Humanities (final year)
- Jeffrey Ngobeni: Postgraduate Diploma in Theology
- Ayanda Bless: BSc Occupational Therapy (third year)
- Hayden Damon: BA Social Work (third year)
- Headman Ntlapo: Posgraduate Diploma in Theology
- Narissa Pieters: BSc Agri (Viticulture) (final year)
- Nandipha Dlamini: BSc Agri (Animal Science) (final year)
- Nomalinge Mzaza: BSc Food Science (final year)
- Robyn Snyman: LLB (final year)