DF Malherbe memorial lecture 2018 (4)

From the left are; Prof Hendri Kroukamp, Acting Vice-Rector; Academics; Prof Aneglique van Niekerk, Head of the Department Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French; Dr Bettina Wyngaard, and Prof Heidi Hudson, Dean of the Faculty of the Humanities.

Photo: Stephen Collett

The author and lawyer, Bettina Wyngaard, delivered the 34th DF Malherbe Memorial Lecture with the theme The politics of the mundane. Among others, she spoke about everyday issues such as language, land, and racism. This year’s guest lecture was held on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) on 17 May. Since 2011, the memorial lecture has been presented every second year.

Wyngaard is also an activist who strives for the rights of women, with a special interest in gender-based violence. Both her BA and LLB degrees were obtained at Stellenbosch University. She now joins a prestigious group of academics who have previously delivered this lecture. Some of the previous guest lecturers include Coenie de Villiers, Prof Jonathan Jansen, former Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS), and Prof Leopoldt Scholtz.

Racism, Language, Land, and many other topics under discussion

With the fierce debate around language, especially in higher education, Wyngaard requested the guests to afford her the opportunity to speak in “the language of her heart”, Afrikaans.

“What I want to do tonight is to share my thoughts on the story of South Africa. In this story, there are certain words that occur regularly, and I want to pause at some of those words,” she said. Regarding racism, she said that every South African had somehow gained a black belt in racial politics.

“I wish and hope the day will come when we will be able to look beyond skin colour and only see a person with a unique personality.” Another wish is that people will learn each other’s cultures and languages.

“Language is one of the things we use most to express our uniqueness. Unfortunately, it is becoming more of a battlefield where we are wounding and trying to kill each other,” she said.

For Afrikaans-speaking people, the assault on Afrikaans is inconceivably difficult to accept, but Wyngaard poses the question, “How many of us are attempting to acquire language skills in a third or fourth vernacular?” Wyngaard’s statement could be interpreted as a way in which to achieve the ideals of the rainbow nation.

Regarding land and land expropriation, she said farmers and farm workers in her hometown of Grabouw were working hand in hand. “In some cases, they have made the workers shareholders and co-decision-makers in the businesses.”

She concluded by saying: “Archbishop Tutu’s rainbow nation do exist. It is within each of us. It is in each mundane interaction we have with each other every day.”

She again emphasised that it was time for all South Africans to roll up their sleeves and get to work to do what needs to be done.

Read full speech here

Bettina Wyngaard

The 2018 DF Malherbe memorial lecture was conducted by the well-known author Bettina Wyngaard on 17 May 2018.

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