Vote of Thanks to Senator Kennedy
By John Daniel
N.U.S.A.S. Vice President
University of Cape Town
South Africa, June 6th, 1966
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chancellor, Mr. Vice Chancellor, Senator Kennedy, Professor Robertson, ladies and gentleman-
I have the honour tonight of proposing the vote of thanks to our guest speaker, Senator Robert Kennedy. Your visit to this country sir, is I believe one of great significance to all South Africans. The tremendous interest which your visit has aroused in the country as a whole, and the large audience which is here tonight, and which welcomed you so enthusiastically, is as a leading South African newspaper said yesterday- a sign of the times, a vivid testimony to the fact that South Africans have grown impatient at their position of isolation from the wider world in which their country finds itself today. They yearn for the stimulation which a visit such as yours provides, and for this you have their whole hearted appreciation.
On Friday night last, the South African Broadcasting Corporation referred to our invitation to you sir, as "defiant and provocative." This to me, is one of the saddest statements which I have heard from the pro-government sources for a long time. And yet it is a revealing one. It seems to epitomize the absence of tolerance in South Africa today. One can hardly conceive of a mentality that can regard an invitation to a leading spokesman, of one of the world's foremost democracies, as defiant and provocative. However, judging from the government's action of three weeks ago, it is clear that this is how they regard our invitation. Nevertheless, not even the banning of our leader, nor anything which the SABC has said, or will say, can convince us that we did wrong to invite you. And though the government may be embarrassed by your visit, we are not.
We are proud to have had you to speak to us, and deeply ashamed of the fact that our government has not seen fit to welcome you to this country. Furthermore, if it is defiant to invite leading democrats to South Africa whose opinions differ from official state policies, and provocative to present a differing point of view to the South African public, then we are proud to be called defiant and provocative.
In a few minutes we shall reaffirm our belief in the principle of human freedom. During the past few weeks South African students have raised their voices against the restrictions placed upon the human freedom of their leader, Ian Robertson.
My message to the students of South Africa is this: let us take courage from what Senator Kennedy has said tonight and turn our recent spirit of protest and dedication into a massive crusade for human rights and justice in South Africa. Let us determine to keep alive the faith that one day our lost freedoms will be restored. But let us not merely reaffirm our belief in values that are lost. But rededicate ourselves to the task of bringing about a society in which they can once again hold an honoured place.
The National Union has been under constant attack for many years. During the last few weeks, not only has our president been banned, but NUSAS has been banned from one of its centers, the Transvaal College of Education for Asiatics. However, we are determined to fight on.
And to you Senator Kennedy, I say that your talk has served as a reminder to us that the free world associates with us and our stand for liberty and non-discrimination. Your message shows clearly that the world has forever turned its back on racial discrimination, and that the South African Government's blind worship of race theories is a pathetic and tragic defiance of the realities of the Twentieth Century.
You sir, have given us a hope for the future, you have renewed our determination not to relax until liberty is restored not only to our universities, but to our land. Remembering your words tonight, we shall continue to strive for the day when our country can once again hold its head high among the nations of the world.
I thank you sir.