Tributes to Nelson Mandela from scholarship inspired by South Africa's struggle for freedom

The Northern Echo: Dr Michael Thompson Dr Michael Thompson

TRIBUTES have been paid to former South African president Nelson Mandela by the chairman of a scholarship inspired by the struggle for the freedom in South Africa.

The Durham University South African Scholarship Fund was set up by students and staff in year that Mr Mandela was jailed for life for organising sabotage in 1964.

It was subsequently re-named the Ruth First Education Trust, in honour of journalist, writer, anti-apartheid campaigner and Durham University sociology lecturer who was assassinated in 1982 by a letter bomb sent by the South African Police.

The trust has enabled dozens of South African students to undertake postgraduate study – many now holding important positions in the public and private sectors in their home country.

Trust chairman Dr Michael Thompson said: “The Ruth First Educational Trust represents a small part of the worldwide legacy of Nelson Mandela’s courage and dignity and principles of struggling for freedom and democracy.”

Dr Thompson said (the former) Durham City Council along with Durham miners had a “great tradition in resisting the evil that was apartheid” and had always supported the scholarship.

He said: “The scholarship was set up by staff and students at Durham University as a contribution to the anti-apartheid movement to allow one – or sometimes there were two – undergraduate students to come and study at Durham.

“These were black students for whom opportunities to take degrees in South Africa were very very limited.

“And some of them were political exiles as well, so they couldn’t study back home.”

In 2007 the trust decided to widen the geographic scope of the scholarship to including other countries in southern Africa.

One recent former scholar is Zimbabwean Simplicio Bhebhe, who studied law and who now works with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, helping victims of human rights abuses.

The present scholar is Zimbabwean Barbara Mutedzi, who is taking an MSc in medical anthropology and who works with a charity supporting adolescents infected with HIV and AIDS.

Dr Thompson said: “Nelson Mandela was a crucial in always standing up for the principle of freedom and equality and social justice, even when he was leading an organisation that had to engage in violence struggle.

“He was always the one who, more than any other leaders of the African National Congress, stood up for the democratic principles they were really were pursuing through that violence.

“And that I think was crucial in the outcome leading up to 1994 and afterwards.

“South Africa really provides a wonderful model of achieving a transition away from violence and injustice.

“And a lot of that was down to his personality - and it is an enormous achievement.”

Comments (1)

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11:38pm Sat 7 Dec 13

NO EINSTEIN says...

I'm really starting to get bored with this, the Guy was a founder startup member of a terrorist cell, will we remember Adams and McGuinness like this ??
I'm really starting to get bored with this, the Guy was a founder startup member of a terrorist cell, will we remember Adams and McGuinness like this ?? NO EINSTEIN

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