UFS video 'an abhorrence'

2008-03-04 17:15

Johannesburg - Recent events at the University of Free State did not represent the actions of African scholars, chief executive of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation (MRF) Shaun Johnson said on Tuesday.

Johnson was speaking just before introducing 23 of the Mandela Rhodes scholars to their icon Madiba at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, Johannesburg.

Johnson said people should not be depressed about the actions of four UFS students who filmed a racist video but should see the Mandela Rhodes scholars, who he referred to as "Madiba's people", as an "antidote" to any depression they might feel.

"What happened there is abhorrent. They do not represent the youth of South Africa and Africa.

"Youth of South Africa are these," he said, pointing to the scholars, "not [the youth] represented by the Reitz residents."

"[These scholars] are an absolute antidote to what we have been seeing and what we hope is an isolated incident," he said.

Jakes Gerwel, the chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the MRF, told the gathering earlier that the post graduate scholars were the new generation of "exceptional" leaders.

He said there was pessimism surfacing in the country and the rest of the continent - a seeming reference to the political climate - but it was unfounded.

"We live in a time that doubt about the continent and the country is flaring up again ... We know there was pessimism before and it was misplaced," he said.

Former president Nelson Mandela, wearing a green shirt smiled and shook hands with each of the scholars.

Each scholar was introduced to him by Johnson and then given about a minute to speak to him.

Roodepoort-born Llewellyn Howes, a motion picture and production student, told Madiba he hoped he would make a difference to the country.

"I'm sure you will, you must be serious" Madiba said, adding that in the past it was unusual to meet someone on the street who had a matric certificate.

Lindokuhle Nkosi, an industrial psychology student from the University of Zululand humbly asked Madiba for one piece of advice that he could give her.

"Here I am coming from nowhere and having the opportunity to meet you," she said.

Madiba said it was difficult to give her any advice considering he did not know her background, but said: "Make sure you work hard. Not only because you want to get a PhD or whatever, but because you don't want anybody to come and say 'I am better than you'."

The class of 2008 - the biggest class yet in the four years of the programme's existence - comprises students from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Kenya and for the first time Uganda.