Stellenbosch University
Welcome to Stellenbosch University
Anton Lubowski 'the embodiment of the fight for social justice'
Author: Development & Alumni / Ontwikkeling & Alumni
Published: 17/09/2020
​​The second Anton Lubowski Memorial Lecture which paid tribute to the anti-apartheid activist and advocate under the theme Social Justice, Quo Vadis - Is Social Justice happening? was held online on Saturday, 12 September 2020.​

The event was presented by Stellenbosch University's (SU) Development and Alumni Relations Division in partnership with the Faculty of Law and Simonsberg Men's Residence.

Lubowski was a Stellenbosch student and a Simonsberg resident in the seventies. He initially enrolled at SU in 1972 for a BCom degree but transferred to a BA Law degree in 1973 and graduated in March 1976. 

Speakers featured at the event included jurist, academic and media personality Judge Dennis Davis; psychologist and holder of the research chair in Historical Trauma and Transformation studies at SU, Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela; and Dr Ismail Lagardien, a prominent author and commentator. Max du Preez, author, commentator and editor of Vrye Weekblad, was the moderator.

Du Preez, a good friend of Lubowski, said although Anton was a fervent Namibian patriot, he inspired many young South Africans.

“The driving force behind Anton's passionate commitment toward the struggle in Namibia was his fundamental sense of justice. He was prepared to risk his life in the pursuit of social, economic and political justice, and the human dignity of ordinary Namibians."

Du Preez compared Lubowski to another famous lawyer and activists George Bizos who passed away on 9 September 2020.

“They were both motivated by a sense of justice rather than ideology. They were proof that you could indeed have a pale skin and be a red-blooded African."

He lamented the fact that, 31 years after his assassination, the criminal justice systems of Namibia and South Africa have still not provided the Lubowski family with proper closure on why Anton was killed and by whom.

Davis, who was Lubowski's lecturer at the University of Cape Town in 1977, said he has mixed emotions when reflecting on the life of the brave hero.

“I have a considerable amount of pride that in my very first year as a law teacher, I came across Anton as one of my students. It is also true that I have a considerable admiration for him. He was charismatic, he filled a room.

“But there is also a sense of frustration. Here we are in South Africa struggling to develop a new conception of identity to transcend the divisions of race, gender and sexual orientation. If we want to pursue social justice for all, we have to heed the lessons from the life of Anton who understood perfectly well that justice does not have boundaries of colour or gender."

Gobodo-Madikizela said the examples of Lubowski and others like him are the embodiment of the kind of fight for social justice that inspires responsible citizenship.

“Yet today, as the country suffers under COVID-19, we witness again the continuing injustice of an ANC government's lack of accountability. Our country is reeling with rape, murder and inhuman acts that cause untold suffering and which are tolerated by government."

She said the commitment to love and solidarity as exemplified by Lubowski, is what is needed now.

“Love has everything to do with social justice. It is the absence of love and care for the other that results in their dehumanisation. The shining legacy of Anton is his love of humanity. This is the distinctive feature of people like him."

Lagardien expanded on the definitions of social justice ­and argued that dignity and respect should be added to the list.

“We need greater equality to goods and services, equal and effective industrial and political rights and the knowledge and language to defend oneself in a court of law. Then you have to include dignity and respect in that."

He added that greater effort should go into correcting the machinery of social injustice.

“The institutions that we create in a society have the power to reproduce inequality. We need to look at the institutions that reproduce it and fix it. So many of the losses inflicted on the poorest people are a result of deliberate policies."