Sipho Pityana calls for Union Buildings to be renamed after Nelson Mandela

20 December 2016 - 15:24 By Aphiwe Deklerk

Businessman and activist Sipho Pityana has called for the Union Buildings to be renamed after the country’s first democratic president‚ Nelson Mandela.

Speaking in his capacity as the chairman of the University of Cape Town council‚ Pityana told guests who had gathered for a graduation ceremony on Tuesday that it was ironic that government had renamed only part of the colonial-era building after Mandela.

"Yet the name of the Union Building itself remains as it is in memory of the four provinces in 1910 that excluded blacks‚'' said Pityana. He called this a subordination of a real icon and symbol of a united South Africa.

"It is upon you as the new generation of intellectuals to share these lessons with society‚ point out the irony and insist that the Union Buildings should be named Nelson Mandela House.''

He said South Africans should not continue to live with symbols of an oppressive past overshadowing the diverse and inclusive future that they seek to build as a new society.

"We need to do the same about the many other oppressive symbols in our society‚" he added. Similarly‚ he said‚ the country needed a tough conversation on how it funded education in general.

"Of course the Freedom Charter‚ which is the reference point‚ is clear... it proclaims 'the doors of learning shall be open to all' and so they should. And yet‚ societal inequality made that dream a mirage.''

He said research showed that 60% of South Africa's university students come from the wealthiest 30% schools in the country‚ meaning as much as half of the university funding in South Africa goes to the richest 10% of the population.

Pityana said the doors of learning were not opened for many. Speaking about UCT‚ he said the institution had done many positive things to transform‚ citing the demographic profile of the student body having changed beyond recognition since 1994.

"Our approach to everything we do as an institution should have changed similarly‚ from teaching and learning to research‚ student life‚ our community outreach and others‚" he said. He said the expectation of the institution was that the new majority would adapt to the dominant culture they found at UCT but the institution found out that it had been an alienating and marginalising experience for many.

Pityana said because of what they found‚ the centrepiece of their new transformation agenda was to forge an inclusive identity‚ recognising the change in profile of the student body and realising that the staff complement must also change.

Pityana is the convenor of the Save South Africa campaign which is calling for President Jacob Zuma to step down as leader of the country.

He made headlines when he heavily criticised Zuma during an address at the funeral of former sports minister‚ Makhenkesi Stofile earlier this year. - TMG Digital/The Times