Judge Dikgang Moseneke, Chancellor;
Prof. Loyiso Nongxa, Vice-Chancellor and Principal;
Prof. Yunus Ballim, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-Principal;
Deputy Vice-Chancellors and the entire Wits Executive;
Senate members present;
Prof. Mamokgethi Setati, President of the Convocation;
Parents and sponsors;
Ladies and gentlemen:
Good morning. I would like to express my sincere congratulations to the University, the academic staff, council and all graduating students on the occasion of this day of celebration.
Many people treat education in a cavalier fashion, but for the parents, partners, funders, friends and graduands gathered here to-day, you know that getting to this point signals victory against great odds.
You must all be congratulated for completing your academic programme and for using your talent and energy to pursue excellence and reject mediocrity. I trust that as well qualified professionals you will always extol excellence in whatever service you render in whatever programme you execute.
A few words on where we stand with respect to numbers in the engineering professions.
The Engineering Council of South Africa has consistently told us we are ‘severely under-engineered’ as a country – we have one engineer for 3,166 people compared to 1 for 227 in Brazil and 1 for 543 in Malaysia.
Today’s graduation of over 200 Engineers in various sectors improves our engineering health substantially. Nevertheless, it is clear that we will have to invest more, be more creative and determined if we are to get to a point where we have the numbers to make a real difference in the development status of South Africa, Africa and the world.
Your profession is a global one and many of you are probably dreaming of the airplane boarding pass and overseas visa you will hold in your hand as soon as you can arrange it.
I wish to challenge you this morning by having the temerity to suggest that having trained at a great university such as Wits – a university that always understood that making a difference means you must stand at the edge of the precipice, have courage, challenge received wisdom, imagine and do the impossible. In honour of this great institution, this country with the potential to be great, I challenge you not to imagine the boarding pass until all villages are joined by firm bridges, until every person walks on a road that is paved, until new safer, greener cities are built, until we have modern 21st infrastructure and physical facilities in every community in South Africa and then Africa.
I am asking you to have the courage to imagine the difficult and even the impossible as you graduate to-day. Set aside the easy and comfortable and build a new society and new world.
I put this to you our future because I think there are times when we forget to remind ourselves of the importance of vision and ambition. We are part of a great history – we have formed a new nation with a visionary Constitution and radical transformative socio-economic aspirations. We tend to forget this greatness these possibilities and wallow in the awfulness of the immediate. I urge you as you walk up to the chancellor and return to your seat – think of yourself as a person who will be great, who will support South Africa and the world to achieve grand ambitions. In that way you will honour Wits, those who sacrificed for you and the grand aspirations we all surely have to be part of a great nation.
South Africa is desperately in need of professional men and women of courage and ambition. We need persons with the ability and courage to make a practical difference. We have excellent debaters, radical thoughts and ideas but millions stay poor, have no infrastructure and are in the periphery of social action.
The challenge you must respond to today, is – has Wits University skilled you to be a practical agent of change? Has it skilled you to see revolution as better circumstances for all people?
I believe many of you have the ability to answer “Yes!” firmly to this challenge. I look forward to you the young professional leaders of South Africa rolling up your sleeves and showing us the older generation – what radical and progressive socio-economic change really looks. I also hope some of you will work with us on the SKA.
My warmest best wishes and congratulations to all who graduate today. I wish you well.