Witnessing history

South Africa students meet prominent freedom fighters

Mac Maharaj and Student, Rebecca Redelmeier sitting down to talk
SIT journalism student Rebecca Redelmeier talks with Mac Maharaj

Students on this semester’s SIT Study Abroad program South Africa: Social and Political Transformation, Education and Social Change are witnessing a politically momentous time in South African history as the country grapples with the resignation of President Jacob Zuma.

On Feb. 7, the students had the unique opportunity to hear Albie Sachs, the former Constitutional Court judge who is considered the father of South Africa’s constitution. He reflected on the current political situation and the 1988 bombing in Mozambique that claimed his arm and nearly claimed his life. Sachs’ speech was an exceptional opportunity for students to prepare for their upcoming excursion to Maputo, where they learn about the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC) and the shared but divergent political transformation in both countries.

A day after the Sachs speech, students met one of the founding fathers of South Africa, Mac Maharaj. Mac, who was in prison with the late ANC leader and former South African President Nelson Mandela, is widely respected for having led the ANC underground during his time in exile. He is also well known for having smuggled Mandela’s draft of Long Walk to Freedom out of prison.

In a forward to the biography Shades of Difference: Mac Maharaj and the Struggle for South Africa by Padraig O’Malley, Mandela wrote: “Mac willingly put his life on the line, not on many occasions but as each occasion demanded.”

Students posing for camera in front of a building.Journalism student Rebecca Redelmeier wrote a piece about the meeting for the website Reporting South Africa in which she said: “Mr. Maharaj left us with words of hope and action. He told us he has hope that globalization, increasing inequality, and climate change will motivate once-disparate communities to work together. These global issues will force us to push past our differences to pave the way for a more united, equal, and free tomorrow.” 

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