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Launch of the Mandela Institute

Edwin Cameron
Supreme Court of Appeal, Bloemfontein, and Chair of the Wits Council

One of the best evenings I have experienced since becoming chairman of the Wits Council was the launch of the Mandela Institute. Former President Mandela agreed to lend his name to the Institute. Since he seldom does this, it is indeed a high accolade.

In typical Nelson Mandela style, a carefully scripted and appropriate speech was delivered, underscoring the importance of the rule of law and emphasizing the central role the Wits Law School had played in sustaining the notion of human rights as a core impulse in South African legal scholarship. He also affirmed Wits as one of South Africa's premier intellectual institutions and reminisced about the time he had spent here, the training he received and the important friendships he had made.

Having done this, however, Mr. Mandela cast aside his scripted speech. He turned to the controversy about whether South Africa had any reason for pride in its achievements since becoming a democracy. He said that no South African, black or white, should forget the miracle that we have achieved. Much remained to be done. But a great deal had already been attained. In this context, he said, the endowment appeal was important and deserved the support of everyone.

On his way out that evening, Mr. Mandela passed each table, greeting old friends for what they were – and greeting new acquaintances in much the same way. It was a marvelous and inspiring evening, and a suitable launch of the Mandela Institute.