Good morning to everyone from the Wynberg Community out there watching this ceremony.
The Chairman of our SGB, Mr Edries Burton, extends his apology for not being able to attend today and he has asked me to welcome you to this rather unique ceremony on his behalf. So, welcome to the 2020 Founders’ Day Ceremony. The first, and I certainly hope the last, virtual ceremony of its kind.
Today we gather to honour and pay tribute to all those members of the extended Wynberg Community, who have over the past 179 years contributed to make the Wynberg Boys’ Schools what they are today. No matter how large or seemingly insignificant their contribution may have been, they have all played their part and thus are part of the heritage of these two great schools.
We also gather to remember those brave Wynberg men who paid the ultimate price in the armed conflicts of the 20th century. They fought to protect their families and countrymen in the belief that they were fighting for personal freedom and democracy against an evil enemy. They responded to a crisis and were prepared to, and in fact did, pay the ultimate price.
Today, no-one will argue that we are in another grave crisis. And I want to make it very clear that I am not only speaking about the so-called COVID 19 pandemic only. Whilst that might be a serious threat, every thinking person must realise by now that the global crisis we face is about far more than a virus.
I am speaking about the abuse of power, maladministration, corruption, graft, bribery, nepotism and organised crime, to mention but a few. And these are taking place on a national and indeed a global scale. There can be little doubt that many heinous crimes against humanity are being committed as we speak under the guise of so-called anti-COVID measures, not only in this country but across the world.
On 6th August in an interview on ENCA former Member of the Cabinet and Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel, spoke on this topic. He said and I quote: “We need to stop the rot right now. … How does an individual (and he is talking about a government official) walk into a car dealership and buy five cars in one day? One a Lamborghini, and two Porsches. Why does society tolerate this? Why do we sell our people down the river?”
Although Manuel is referring to a particular political party in SA in the interview, this immoral behaviour is not limited to a single political party, a particular country or a specific sector. It occurs in governments, the finance sector, commerce, service organisations, and even religious organisations.
In the interview Manuel goes on to say: “Society cannot be built on this basis … Let’s not pretend we do not notice the rot”
If ever there was a call to action this is it. Now perhaps more than ever is the time for everyone in the Wynberg Community to stand up and make our voices heard. Just as those young men we are remembering today stepped forward to defend personal freedom and democracy, the same is being asked of us all. Only this time there is no excuse. You do not have to be of a particular age rich, of a specific gender, race or religious persuasion to enlist for this battle. Everyone can participate, regardless of who you are, and the sacrifice does not have to be that great. But how can we answer the call? Here are a few simple ways in which I believe you can do it:
Firstly, don’t be acquiescent, ask questions and speak out. South Africans are very reluctant to do that. Whether it is your bank, a public representative, your doctor or your service provider. Do not take things at face value. Ask questions and read the fine print.
Check your facts before you comment on anything.
Do not believe everything you read or hear in the media. Challenge or expose members of the media who spread fake news or inaccurate news. Remember that censorship is widespread even today.
Read the labels and inserts of the products you buy. Check who is tracking you on your phone and through your network.
Be an active citizen. Take an interest in causes that are close to your heart and join groups who fight for these causes. Where you see or become aware of illegal or suspicious activity, speak up.
Of course, if you feel yourself called to more drastic action, I encourage you to follow your instinct. Be assured that you go with our blessing and best wishes.
I conclude with words from the Chairman of our Old Boys’ Union, Matt Thomson, written in a recent newsletter to its members:
“While we may lament the burden and difficulty thrust upon us by living in the time of the Coronavirus, we take great confidence in our ability to endure in spite of the challenges we have faced. 179 years of adversity, war, change, revolution and toil have failed to break the spirit, faith and resolve of Wynberg Men; this is but the latest in a series of challenges which we will overcome.
Our reaction to the crisis at hand continues to fill me with confidence knowing that we will overcome the challenges before us.”
Undoubtedly the year ahead is going to be extremely challenging. May God bless us all.
Mr Jan de Waal
14th Headmaster of Wynberg Boys’ High School