To commemorate Youth Day, Prof Thuli Madonsela, incumbent of the research chair in social justice in Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Law, along with Dwarsrivier Tourism and Visit Stellenbosch introduced a Social Justice Walk. The 16 km walk runs through Stellenbosch to the former slave town of Pniël.
The aim of the walk is to embrace social justice against the backdrop of South Africa's troubled history. By acknowledging past injustices, Stellenbosch University (SU) seeks to create hope and inspiration, and to unlock the enormous potential of the country's people.
The walk was led by Prof Madonsela, who was joined by dignitaries such as Western Cape premier Alan Winde and Stellenbosch municipal manager Geraldine Mettler. Project partner Pilgrimage of Hope also took part.
In his welcoming address at the starting point of the walk, the Rhenish Mission Church in Stellenbosch, Dr Leslie van Rooi, senior director of Social Impact and Transformation at SU, said the initiative was a symbol of what the University would like to see happening in South Africa. “The walk is a fantastic opportunity to say something about our town, our togetherness and our story, and to share a message that is sorely needed in our country," said Van Rooi.
At the first stop along the route – the Old Lückhoff School in Banhoek Road, which today is the site of the Lückhoff Living Museum – SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers shared some reflections on the significance of the site. In 1969, the Group Areas Act of 1950 forced Lückhoff learners to leave their beloved school and relocate to the new Lückhoff School in Idas Valley. The Lückhoff Living Museum, which the late Prof Russell Botman, then SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, started in 2007, symbolically rededicates the Old Lückhoff School building to its original occupants. The facility currently houses SU's Division of Social Impact, as well as numerous Stellenbosch non-governmental organisations.
“Lückhoff Living Museum is a place where we can remember and rediscover the stories from the past, often very painful stories," said De Villiers. “Through films, photos and exhibitions, we can remind ourselves of the injustices of the past.
“Lückhoff School is a very significant site. Even though the forced removals based on the colour of people's skin were the work of the previous government, we, as the University, would like to offer our sincere apology for not objecting to the removals at the time. We benefited from the removals, and from the property that was confiscated. It was and is an injustice. We acknowledge our part in the injustices of the past, and we commit ourselves to correction and development.
“Also, as we commemorate Youth Day, we have to remember what happened on this day in 1976, as well as events before and after that day. We have to make sure this does not happen again. So, today, we remember the people of this area, and the students and teachers who attended the Old Lückhoff School."
Prof Madonsela added: “None of us alive caused the slavery, forced removals and other injustices of the past. But the consequent accumulated socioeconomic consequences are ours now, standing in the way of social cohesion and sustainable economic and social development.
“What is heart-warming, however, is that we are here in our diversity, united in our appreciation of the cosmic forces that placed us in this beautiful land, and in our commitment to social justice. Together, we are initiating the Social Justice Walk as a small but significant step towards healing the divisions of the past, and building a corridor of hope to link and advance our communities."