Professor Ashwin Desai spoke at the Northern Areas Football Association hall on 29 June 2017. The author of ‘Reverse Sweep’ – A Story of South African Cricket Since Apartheid, was the main speaker at the second Raymond Uren Legacy Lecture co-hosted by NAPDI (Northern Areas People Development Initiative) and CANRAD NMU (Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy at Nelson Mandela University).
At first glance, one might think this man to be a graduate from the 1980’s movie, Nerds Vacation…..what with unkempt hair, shirt dangling, and a penchant for pushing his hands in and out of his pockets, as though he was searching for his watch which was on his wrist…..
Then his oration began….
From first word to last, Professor Ashwin Desai took the 100 strong audience, on a delightfully, provocative journey. Being a Rhodes University graduate, this was not his first visit to our city, so the friends he had made pulled off a master stroke by bringing him back to town, albeit for one evening.
As he is an author of 12 books, and currently working on his 13th, he could only have displayed diverse knowledge into worldly affairs. His forthright opinions were laced with humour, tinged with provocation, which was met with stunned appreciation. There were howls of laughter from the audience, when he intimated how his uneducated mother made him memorise Shakespeare’s 12th Night by heart. Is that actually funny?!
Throughout his 20 minute speech, he flitted between sport, politics, education and his personal life. His knowledge of sport pre and post-unification is top notch. He paid particular attention to the Marikana/Ramaphosa debacle, which he showed to all, was closely linked politically, to the 1922/Jan Smuts connected mining disaster, and not to Sharpeville, as so many of us might have thought.
He hit out at those unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies, whose primary intention is to make financial profit, rather than actually saving lives. His fellow university lecturers, some of whom he knows haven’t read a book in 20 years, were also not spared, as they have been stuck within their own curriculum.
At the end of his speech, the audience showed their appreciation with a rousing, 45 second standing ovation. The question and answer session which followed again showed his diverse knowledge. Ranging from sport, politics and education, Professor Desai expressed his forthright opinion, albeit him acknowledging that he did not have all the answers.
All in all, an evening well spent.
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