Russel Botman ‘made the world a much better place’

2014-07-06 15:00

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“God called him home when He thought the evil was darkening the light around him.”

This is what Ruth Botman said yesterday at the funeral of her brother-in-law, Professor Russel Botman (60), the late principal and vice-chancellor of Stellenbosch University.

Botman, who died unexpectedly in his sleep last Saturday morning, was buried yesterday after a service at the DF Malan Memorial Centre on the university’s campus.

Several speakers described Botman as a leader of transformation, someone who was an inspiration to others. Among the dignitaries who attended the service were Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, former presidents Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, head of the Anglican Church in South Africa Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and former finance minister Trevor Manuel and his wife Maria Ramos.

Ruth Botman said the family was grateful to everyone for their support during this difficult time. “Russel, we are giving you back to God. Yes, we’re sad?...?You have fought the good fight. Rest in peace.”

Botman’s son, Hayman, who delivered a tribute on behalf of the family, said his father was passionate about everything he did.

“He was our role model and our inspiration. He always made time for us, no matter how busy he was. He was not only our father, he was a father to all.”

Professor Jonathan Jansen, the principal and vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State, said after the service that Ruth was the only one who spoke about the difficult time Botman experienced shortly before his death.

“A major task rests with the university now. Stellenbosch University will have to decide whether it wants to build on the legacy of Botman or whether it wants to stay in the past,” he said.

“It’s clear to me that Stellenbosch University is facing a great challenge. I do not think people realise the great pressure he was under because of the fact that there are many people here who do not understand that apartheid is over and that you can’t have a white-dominated university 20 years after apartheid. This is my concern.”

Dr Setri Nyomi, the general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, who led the service, described Botman as a visionary leader. “He served God faithfully and made a big difference with the time God gave him. His gift made a difference not only in South Africa, but across the world.”

Dr Johann Rupert, Stellenbosch University chancellor, paid tribute to Botman on behalf of the university. He said Botman, an anti-apartheid cleric, dreamed of a united South Africa, a place where love, justice and unity prevailed.

“He was always humble and cared for all people – even for people like me, white Afrikaners.”

Rupert said Botman truly loved the university known as Maties.

“He was never destructive and critical in his conversations with people who had different ideas from his. He made the world a much better place. If we can accept his ideals of a welcoming inclusiveness and can build on that, then we will give Russel the honour he deserves,” he said.

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