The rainbow nation convened for the 13th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, hosted by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) at the University’s Soweto Campus on Saturday, 3 October 2015. The lecture was delivered by world renowned French economist Prof Thomas Piketty whose work on economic inequality has reverberated globally.
Soweto, the location of this lecture has global significance for all people who value liberty and the human spirit’s quest for freedom. It is believed that it was on the hill just behind the campus, that the great hymn for Africa “Nkosi Sikele iAfrica” (God Bless Africa) was written in 1897 by the Reverend Enoch Sontonga. This year also marks 60 years of the Freedom Charter – which articulated a dream for all South Africans – that was adopted in Kliptown, another part of Soweto.
Speaking to guests at the lecture, Prof Ihron Rensburg, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UJ welcomed Prof Piketty as the newest honorary doctorate recipient at UJ. The University’s Faculty of Economic and Financial Sciences (FEFS) conferred the honorary doctoral degree on Prof Piketty, in acknowledgment of his contributions to knowledge concerning issues of inequality and poverty at a youth engagement hosted by the University on Friday, 2 October 2015.
Prof Rensburg highlighted the significance of the lecture as an answer to 21st century challenges. He said: “Your participation in such extraordinary numbers in this landmark Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture elevate our collective spirit of confidence, optimism, hope and resilience as we face up to the greatest challenge of the 21st Century: that of nurturing human societies that are deeply caring, completely inclusive and significantly more equal.”
After the South African national anthem Prof Piketty took to the podium amidst a standing ovation from the audience that included South African greats such as former President Kgalema Motlanthe, Gauteng Premier David Makhura, NMF Board member Mamphela Ramphele and economical mastermind Dr Trevor Manual.
During the lecture Prof Piketty called for transparency to eradicate inequality in the developing world. He ascertained that transparency from governments on how much international companies are paying to do business with African countries would be an important step to ensure good economical governance. He also maintained that transparency from the governments to the broader public where society knows who is getting paid for what and how much, is crucial if equality is the goal of those who govern.
To lessen inequality Prof Piketty also called for decent minimum wage legislation; access to quality education; property ownership and relooked taxation parameters for foreigners and international companies.