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2023 Annual Sol Plaatje Lecture on Constitutionalism and Student Funding



3 min



This programme aims to encourage young people to carry the torch, empower the most vulnerable with knowledge on their rights, and work towards eradicating greed and corruption for equality and justice.


How do we make the Constitution a lived reality?

How do we ensure that power is held accountable?

How do we ensure socioeconomic rights to health, housing, and education?


These are the difficult questions that arise from discussions on the South African Constitution. Leading the discussion at Sol Plaatje University was Justice Edwin Cameron, who is also the Chancellor of the Stellenbosch University. During his remarks he stated that the problem is not with the Constitution but rather a lack of functional state institutions that reinforce the Constitution’s principles.


During the lecture, Justice Cameron laid out three areas where South Africa has accrued democratic advantages through apartheid resistance.


First, Justice Cameron emphasised South Africa’s media freedom. “Our media are free to investigate, speak out, denounce, to reveal, in a way that across 2/3 of this land mass would land them in jail,” he said. This media freedom is upheld by a population who are doubtful about government power, enabling the media to act as an agent of public scepticism.


Second, is the non-governmental sector. “A lot of non-governmental organisations existed and flourished, and they survived the transition,” he said. While it was presumed that NGOs would lose their usefulness in a democratic South Africa, where the main voting constituency were poor, they have instead become an integral part of service delivery and continue to enhance access to health, education, nutrition, and justice.

Lastly, Justice Cameron referred to a “spirit of legal challenge”. This “tradition of legal activism” has empowered those who are oppressed with a faith in the law to correct injustice.


Together with the South African Constitution, we can find hope in this national ability to confront political authority.

However, these hard-won democratic advantages have not adequately addressed the socioeconomic conditions that people still endure.


“We had high hopes, but those hopes were shattered. But we’ve got to hold onto this dream. Who are the primary people who must hold onto this dream? The young people,” said Justice Steven Majiedt, the Chancellor of Sol Plaatje University.


The annual Sol Plaatje lecture ended with a call to action to the university, which promised to deliver on Constitutional education and awareness programmes for students. This programme aims to encourage young people to carry the torch, empower the most vulnerable with knowledge on their rights, and work towards eradicating greed and corruption for equality and justice.




Chancellors Forum Roundtable

Led by Justice Steven Majiedt, Professor Itumeleng Mosala and Dr Judy Dlamini, the Chancellors Forum Roundtable unpacked youth challenges of student funding and mental health. Both challenges, while affecting youth directly, also pose national threats to economic sustainability. Together with Constitutionalism, these are identified areas of intervention by the SA Universities Chancellors Forum.


Student Funding

Prof Mosala brought with him the original funding model, proposed in 1996 with the aim of creating a sustainable system of funding and increased access to higher education. The model was supported by a R5 billion Japanese low-interest loan but was never adopted or implemented.


“Since then, there have been many, many models developed for student funding,” he said. “We have to move away from an expenditure model to an investment model, to be a commercially managed model.”

With an investment model, long-term planning is essential to align long-term financial projections with the desired vision for education.


Mental Health

Speaking on mental health, Dr Dlamini highlighted the importance of resilience and emotional intelligence.

“We are faced in our country with some leaders that are not accountable, they don’t care, they don’t do what’s right. As young leaders being nurtured in our institutions, it matters for you to be clear on what you stand for and your value system so you can be accountable for self. It starts with investing in yourself,” she said. “There are very few things in life that you cannot build or nurture.”