Pre­serve our her­itage – Navi Pil­lay


RE­SERVE our her­itage!

That’s the ad­vice to South Africa’s youth from former UN high com­mis­sioner for hu­man rights Navi Pil­lay.

The re­tired judge spoke to POST af­ter re­ceiv­ing an hon­orary doc­tor­ate from the Dur­ban Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy last week in recognition of her prin­ci­pled stance against in­jus­tice all over the world.

“I have been to 79 coun­tries and seen how peo­ple pre­serve their an­cient halls, and I look at what steps we are tak­ing to pre­serve our her­itage.

“Our li­braries and halls are some­times get­ting burnt in vi­o­lent protests and it is re­ally de­stroy­ing our her­itage,” said Judge Pil­lay.

“Some youth need to stop the ex­trem­ist vi­o­lent be­hav­iour. The youth needs to lead the move­ment for change.”

Since leav­ing her UN post, she has been busy play­ing a role wher­ever she could, she said.

“I of­fer ad­vice and help at the UN Com­mis­sion for Hu­man Rights. I have re­cently com­pleted an as­sess­ment of the in­ter­nal jus­tice sys­tem with four other judges for the Gen­eral Assem­bly. I am the vice-pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Com­mis­sion against the Death Penalty. I am also on the steer­ing com­mit­tee of Donor Di­rect and I am on the coun­cil at the Uni­ver­sity of KwaZulu-Na­tal, to name a few,” she said.

Former Green­peace boss Kumi Naidoo also re­ceived an hon­orary doc­tor­ate, for his out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion in the fight for hu­man dig­nity for all, his com­mu­nity and stu­dent ac­tivism and his com­mit­ment to the erad­i­ca­tion of poverty and in­jus­tice through mul­ti­ple na­tional, African and global move­ments.

The former Chatsworth res­i­dent en­cour­aged grad­uands to stand up to any wrong­do­ers. “Do not ad­just to in­equal­ity. Do not ad­just to cor­rup­tion. We rely on the new gen­er­a­tion to stand up and say to our lead­ers and to our so­ci­ety how we can be much bet­ter than we are. You have strug­gled, strived and now have this priv­i­lege. Use it wisely and pow­er­fully,” he said.

Naidoo said he was hum­bled to have been cho­sen for the doc­tor­ate. “Recognition and hon­ours are al­ways deeply hum­bling. Noth­ing I have achieved or done in my life has been an in­di­vid­ual ef­fort. My work was al­ways done with oth­ers who have shared my val­ues and made im­mense sac­ri­fices them­selves, so all of the in­di­vid­ual recognition I re­ceive is a re­flec­tion not only of me but so many of the val­ues I have held as im­por­tant my whole life.

“To re­ceive this from an in­sti­tu­tion which once ran evening classes to as­sist stu­dents to com­plete their ma­tric, I am so grate­ful, as I would never have been able to fin­ish my school­ing af­ter I was ex­pelled for tak­ing part in boy­cotts, with­out this in­sti­tu­tion,” he said.

Naidoo’s life has been a roller-coaster of po­lit­i­cal and so­cial jus­tice ac­tivism.

He was only 15 when he joined pupils from his school, Chatsworth High, and oth­ers in a boy­cott protest­ing against a dis­crim­i­na­tory ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

Soon af­ter, he be­came a fron­trun­ner at all school protests.

He has spent his life com­mit­ted to erad­i­cat­ing poverty and in­jus­tices. He is also the first African to be­come an ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Green­peace In­ter­na­tional.

Naidoo now serves as a board chair­man for the Pan-African Civil So­ci­ety Move­ment, as a board mem­ber for 350. org and he is an am­bas­sador to the South­ern African Faith Com­mu­ni­ties En­vi­ron­men­tal In­sti­tute.

Kumi Naidoo, right, and Navi Pil­lay were pre­sented with hon­orary doc­tor­ates from the Dur­ban Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy last week.

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