On Thursday morning, 18 March 2021, the annual Neil Aggett Memorial Lecture was delivered at Kingswood College. The lecture takes place each year to celebrate the life of Dr Neil Aggett and is held to honour his legacy.
In the midst of a global pandemic that we currently find ourselves in, the differences between the have and have nots has perhaps now, more than ever before been more starkly highlighted. It is therefore, important that we continue to celebrate the life of Aggett as he advocated for those who found themselves at the receiving end of social injustices.
This year, due to the covid-19 pandemic in part, and the funeral of King Goodwill Zwelithini in particular, we held a hybrid Neil Aggett Memorial Lecture with Dr Zweli Mkhize as this year’s speaker. As the world continues to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Mkhize has, since the beginning, been at the very centre of this invisible threat.
In his presentation, Standing up against Injustice in a global pandemic Dr Mkhize reiterated that we each have a part to play in keeping each other safe. Our actions have reactions and in order to safeguard our people we need to take individual steps in order to prevent the spread of the disease.
Mkhize went on to emphasize that the pandemic has unfortunately highlighted the social inequalities which still exist today and that we all need to do our best going forward to help alleviate and bridge this gap. The right to healthcare is an inherent one, and one which Mkhize says every South African has a right to. The vaccine rollout, according to Mkhize has to make sure that no person or country is left behind. Countries will need to work together in order to find ways to equally distribute access to vaccines.
It was clear from his talk and the Q&A session which he undertook with our pupil leaders yesterday afternoon, that as individuals we have a responsibility to society and that we must advocate for change where necessary. We do not need to move mountains to make a difference, we only need in our own small way stand up and speak up against what is wrong. Many small actions, from each and every one of us, can move a mountain together.
The speakers of this annual lecture have, over the past few years all echoed one another calling on us to work hard towards being an ally for inclusion of all citizens regardless of race, gender or socio-economic standing. It is here where the legacy of Neil Aggett and people like him live on.
Aggett attended Kingswood College from 1964-1970. He graduated as a medical doctor from the University of Cape Town and went on to work in a hospital in the Transkei and later at Baragwanath Hospital. He was deeply concerned with the hardships endured by black South Africans under the Apartheid regime and left his medical career to become involved in the black trade union movement. In late 1981 he was detained for “interrogation” by the Security Police and was found hanging in his cell at John Vorster Square in February 1982.
The prestigious Neil Aggett award was founded by members of his Class of 1970 to foster a spirit of “individual service above self” in young men and women of Kingswood College. It pays tribute to the recipient’s true commitment to a wider social responsibility within the College, as well as to the greater community of Makhanda (Grahamstown) and South Africa.
The recipient of this year’s award was Wanda Madasa, 2021 Headgirl at Kingswood College. Wanda is a young woman of great character, who has played many leadership roles in the College, and impressed all those who have come into contact with her.
Her commitment to serving others is evident in the many initiatives that she has been involved with through Interact and other platforms, as well as the projects that she, herself has initiated.
Above all, Wanda is someone with moral courage and integrity, who has demonstrated an understanding of social and environmental issues and has the ability to reflect and make thoughtful decisions Her giving to a greater cause than herself, mirror the qualities that were found in the late Neil Aggett and makes Wanda a most worthy recipient of this year’s Neil Aggett Memorial award.