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Media Statement by Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane

Right-thinking and morally just South Africans have been called on to be vigilant in opposing attempts to undermine South Africa’s constitution.

Speaking today on being awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from the University of the Witwatersrand, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane expressed concern about “ominous signs” on the horizon that are posing a serious threat to the country’s constitutional democracy.

“These threats include legislation such as the socalled ‘secrecy bill’, the South African Police Service Amendment Bill, the Legal Practice Bill and the Traditional Courts Bill, all of which contain elements that do not sit comfortably with our constitution.

“Then there are the various sentiments uttered from time to time by leaders and their representatives who should know better: sentiments such as Gwede Mantashe’s response to the postponement of The Spear case that ‘we will not win in court what we have not won in the streets”’, or the ANC’s head of legal and constitutional affairs, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, that the constitution will be ‘interpreted on the streets’ instead of in the courts,” he said.

The Archbishop added that such legislation and utterances should call forth vigilance among right-thinking and morally just South Africans, and a determination to oppose them through the very instrument, the constitution, that had been put in place to protect the future of all South Africans through its tenets and its Bill of Rights.

Turning to the graduates receiving awards on the same occasion, Archbishop Ndungane said the country had a desperate need for leaders and called on them to shape the future into one of which everyone could be proud.

He added: “Our country has a desperate need for men and women who will inspire those that they lead to become more than they believe is possible. We need leaders in all spheres of life – business, political, social, religious. We need leaders who are fundamentally committed to the wellbeing of everyone in society – and not just a privileged minority.

“We need leaders who abhor corruption and ineptitude, and refuse to be satisfied with low or mediocre standards..... We need leaders who embrace high moral standards in their actions, and right thinking in their pronouncements,” he said.

As Executive Director of the Historic Schools Restoration Project (HSRP), an initiative to revive the fortunes of historical South African schools by transforming them into sustainable institutions of educational and cultural excellence, Archbishop Ndungane said that a sound educational system was critical if South Africa’s social, economic and political institutions are to be strengthened.

“Our vision is to nurture future African leaders of calibre and integrity who are able to meet the crucial needs of community and country. The HSRP aims to achieve its vision through the revitalisation of the rich heritage of historical schools by transforming them into sustainable and aspirational African institutions.

“There is no reason why disadvantaged rural schools cannot produce South African scientists of the future. We want to see a future Nobel Prize winner emerge from the historic walls that we are restoring,” he said.

Eleven schools in five provinces have formed a pilot for the HSRP. They are in KwaZulu/Natal (Inkamana High School, Vryheid; Vryheid Comprehensive, Vryheid; Inanda Seminary High School and Ohlange High School, Inanda; Adams College, Amanzimtoti), Eastern Cape (Healdtown Comprehensive School, St Matthews High School near Keiskammahoek), Limpopo (Lemana High School, Elim), North West Province (Tiger Kloof High School, Vryburg), and Gauteng (Orlando High School, Soweto and Wilberforce Community College, Evaton).

The project has been endorsed by President Jacob Zuma and received operational funding from 2008 to 2011 from the Department of Arts and Culture. In April 2012, it was taken under the wing of the Department of Basic Education.

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