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16 April 2024 | Story Precious Shamase | Photo Stephen Collett
Archbishop Makgoba
From left: Prof Francis Petersen (University of the Free State’s (UFS) Vice-Chancellor and Principal), David Noko (Chairperson of the UFS Council), Archbishop Thabo Makgoba (honorary doctorate recipient), and Prof Bonang Mohale (UFS Chancellor).

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba stood before a crowd of eager faces, memories of his turbulent past intertwining with the present moment. In his speech during the University of the Free State (UFS) Qwaqwa Campus graduation ceremony on 12 April 2024, he recounted a pivotal moment from his youth, marked by the echoes of apartheid's oppression. "I am so pleased to be here," he began, "not least because the last time I was in this beautiful part of the country, I departed under less auspicious circumstances."

Reflecting on his teenage years amid the turbulence of the 16 June 1976 uprising, Archbishop Makgoba shared his journey of resilience and transformation. Forced from his home in the Alexandra township to Soweto, he found himself entangled in the struggle against apartheid. Yet, amid the chaos, his parents sought refuge for him in a rural haven – Makabelane in Phuthaditjhaba.

Gratitude and reflection

Returning to the university decades later to receive an honorary degree from the Faculty of Theology and Religion, Archbishop Makgoba expressed profound gratitude. "It is with enormous gratitude and thanksgiving that I return to this campus to receive this honour," he expressed, reflecting on the transformative power of education and the support of communities.

Receiving the Doctor of Theology (Honoris Causa), Archbishop Makgoba dedicated the honour to the unsung heroes of society. "I receive this honorary degree on behalf of all the lay people ... the pillars who sustain us," he remarked, acknowledging their enduring contributions amid historical injustices and contemporary challenges.

Championing equality and social justice

In his address, Archbishop Makgoba stressed the relevance of theology in addressing contemporary societal issues. Drawing upon the doctrine of the incarnation, he emphasised the divine solidarity with humanity, urging a renewed commitment to social justice and equality.

Advocating for a ‘new struggle’ for a just and equitable society, Archbishop Makgoba called upon graduates to embrace a legacy of service and activism. "Let's dedicate ourselves to serving our society in a way that will enable those who are the least among us to live lives as full and as rich as those we aspire to live ourselves," he urged, invoking a vision of collective empowerment and societal transformation.

Legacy of leadership

The newly honoured Dr Makgoba's journey from the streets of apartheid-era South Africa to the helm of the Anglican Church stands as a testament to the power of resilience, education, and service. As he continues to champion social justice and equality, his legacy resonates with hope and inspiration for generations to come.

Dr Makgoba's call for societal transformation aligned with the UFS’ Vision 130. This strategic intent aims to reposition the university as a beacon of academic excellence, innovation, and inclusivity. His honorary degree ceremony echoes the institution's commitment to nurturing leaders who embody the values of accountability, social justice, and care, contributing to a future where education becomes a catalyst for positive change.

Congratulatory Message

The Chancellor of the UFS, Prof Bonang Mohale, conveyed his heartfelt congratulations to Dr Makgoba on his honorary title, commending him as an unwavering champion in the continuous struggle for justice. Prof Mohale expressed gratitude for Dr Makgoba's tireless efforts, which paved the way for future generations to assert themselves and challenge authority. “Your accomplishment serves as a testament to your passion and unwavering commitment. Congratulations,“ said Prof Mohale. In conclusion, Prof Mohale warmly thanked Dr Makgoba for his selfless dedication and significant contributions.


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