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#Action4Inclusion Social Justice Walk celebrates youth in fundraising efforts
Author: Petro Mostert
Published: 20/06/2024

​More than sixty people recently joined hands to walk 16 kilometres from Stellenbosch to Bethlehem farm in Kylemore in Stellenbosch University's (SU) fourth annual social justice walk. The walk celebrated South African youth and raised awareness for the Bridge the Gap and #Action4Inclusion fundraising initiatives to ensure that no student is left behind because of debt.

Leading the way with her unique presence, was Prof Thuli Madonsela, Director: Centre for Social Justice at SU, supported by SU Council Chair Dr Nicky Newton-King and Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Study Prof Sibusiso Moyo, who is also the co-chair of the Council of Social Justice Champions, and Basetsana Kumalo, businesswoman and a former Miss South Africa. Adding muscle to the walking group, was legendary Springbok rugby player Tendai “Beast" Mtawarira and his team from The Beast Foundation.

After each participant had the opportunity to introduce themselves in front of Die Stal, SU's Alumni Clubhouse on Coetzenburg, the group set off along the Eerste River through the gardens at the Faculty of Theology, up Ryneveld Street to SU's landmark building, the Ou Hoofgebou (Old Main Building). Here Thembalethu Seyisi, from the Centre for Social Justice, read the Preamble to South Africa's Constitution and the group sang the national anthem. Next to the installation that depicts the Preamble to the Constitution at the Law Faculty, Madonsela explained the constitutional principles that inform the right to education for all.

“It is not the job of Government alone to create the South Africa our Constitution envisions. You and I and everybody else need to join hands to bring that country about. To give life to human rights, they need legs, and today we all walked to give legs — like raindrops that collectively form the sea, we together can make a difference in students' lives.

“I was not sent home in Grade 11, because kind strangers made it possible for me to pursue my studies [by paying for it]. So, today we all contribute to make it better for many students who need to grapple with student debt. We cannot change the past, but we know better, and we can do better," said Madonsela.

The next stop was the historical Lückhoff School in Banghoek Road. Here Wilfred Daniels, one of South Africa's legendary athletics coaches, told the group the story and significance of this school. In 1969, because of the Group Areas Act of 1950, learners were forced to vacate their beloved school and relocate to the new Lückhoff School in Ida's Valley, some carrying their benches as they left.

In 2007, the then SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, the late Prof Russell Botman, started a process during which the Old Lückhoff School building was symbolically rededicated to its original owners. Today it houses — as a living museum — SU's Division for Social Impact as well as numerous Stellenbosch NGOs.

Ida's Valley Trails director and one of Ida's Valley's champions, Eon Hendrickse, gave each participant a rock which they had to carry and bury somewhere as a symbol of the burden they must carry. “I will forgive but cannot forget the past until I see the people living around me have adequate houses and the privileges they deserve," said Hendrickse.

From here the group walked up the old Helshoogte Pass, through Ida's Valley and the Ida's Valley Reserve trail to Zorgvliet farm where there is still an iron shackle in a tree where slaves used to be tied up — a stark reminder of many hardships endured by the people in this country.

On the old Bethlehem farm, Mtawarira, who had the last word on the day, said there was no greater cause than to support the youth. Sharing his vision and passion for the incredible work his Beast Foundation is doing, Mtawarira said he and Madonsela have always had a shared vision from the first time they met: “To empower the youth and give each of them the opportunity to become the best they can be".

“Today I discovered Stellenbosch in a whole different way. I also realised that debt and a lack of finance should not inhibit students to pursue their dreams. They must be allowed and enabled to achieve their wildest dreams, like I did. At the age of 16, I was given a scholarship, and it changed my life. I went to a renowned private school, could access the best facilities and education, making me the person I am today. I would not have become a world champion if I didn't go to that school.

“I believe every young person deserves that equal chance and opportunity to go out there and become the leaders of the future and be able to live their dreams," Mtawarira said.

PHOTO: Henk Oets