In an article yesterday on the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Human Rights Awards, the nature of some of Georgetown University's investments was incorrectly stated. The school has some investments in companies that do business in South Africa, not in South African companies.
"My daddy would like to be with you this morning, but he can't because the government won't give him his passport," said 8-year-old Allan Boesak Jr., a tiny figure hoisted to a podium before an auditorium full of people hanging on to his every word. "He still believes in fighting the South African government . . . He is not afraid of the South African government."
The young Boesak received one of many standing ovations yesterday in Georgetown University's Gaston Hall for recipients -- or their emissaries -- of this year's Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Human Rights Awards, three internationally known South African activists whom Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) called "the moral leaders of our entire planet."
Two could not come: Winnie Mandela, activist wife of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela, who led the outlawed African National Congress; and the Rev. Allan Boesak, a mixed-race minister of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church and an outspoken critic of apartheid. Arrested and detained last summer for planning a march on the prison holding Nelson Mandela, Boesak was charged last month with subversion and released on bail and conditions that included withdrawal of his passport.
The one recipient present yesterday was the Rev. C.F. Beyers Naude', an Afrikaner clergyman who gave up his position in the Dutch Reformed Church in 1963 to head the Christian Institute aimed at influencing white churches against apartheid. This year, he succeeded Bishop Desmond Tutu as secretary general of the South African Council of Churches.
In a morning of eloquent words, perhaps more moving for being low-key, visions of Robert Kennedy were recalled and promises for the future were invoked.
"On another tomorrow not so distant, I believe that Allan Boesak and Beyers Naude' will be honored as prophets in their own land," Kennedy proclaimed. "Winnie Mandela will be known for what she truly is -- the First Lady of South Africa, and South Africa will be free." The crowd in the packed hall was on its feet, somewhat to the surprise of the senator, who took his seat then looked up with a nod of acknowledgment.
There were also criticisms and warnings that U.S. efforts to abolish apartheid had not been sufficient.
"All constructive engagement has failed miserably," said Winnie Mandela in a filmed message introduced by Mpho Tutu, the daughter of Bishop Tutu and a Howard University senior, who accepted the award for Mandela.
"Your government condemns us to a 20th-century slavery by echoing the propaganda of the racist regime," Mandela said.
Since her husband's imprisonment in 1964, Winnie Mandela has been jailed numerous times. She is currently banned; the regime confines her to the town of Brandfort in the remote Orange Free State.
"Today," Mandela said on film, "as we complete our 333rd year of oppression we ask no more than what people of the U.S. ask as a basic right -- the right of each person to have one vote."
"Winnie Mandela is the greatest woman in South Africa today," said Kennedy. "Her greatness lies in her indomitable spirit . . . and her luminous love for the husband whose hand she has not touched for more than 20 years, whose face she can only see through bars once a month . . . A government that trembles in the face of this seemingly defenseless woman is a government whose days are numbered."
Naude' said that the United States and Great Britain, "more than any other countries, have the power, especially the economic power, to push South Africa to abolish this evil system of apartheid."
Saying that the destiny of America was "inextricably bound to the outcome of South Africa," Naude' warned, "If you refuse to face the issues in South Africa, you do it at your own risk -- and possibly at your own peril."
According to Naude', "No solution is possible as long as the white minority clings desperately to the power it has drawn to itself . . . I am addressing myself to my people, the Afrikaners . . . My people, your day of domination is over. Your day of liberation is dawning. We want you to be part of the new South Africa."
The awards, which carry $50,000 stipends, were granted on the anniversary of Robert Kennedy's 60th birthday. His brother, Edward, his widow, Ethel, and a daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, were seated on stage, and other family members were in the audience.
There was praise for Robert Kennedy, who visited South Africa in 1966. "In the darkness of that time . . ." said Dorothy Boesak, reading a message from her husband, "he didn't come to give us solutions, he didn't come to give us empty words of sympathy. He did come to speak of ideals, of justice, of daring, of hope . . . He recognized the darkness but already saw the glimmer of the light of the new world."
Dorothy Boesak, 37, told the group, "This has been a very trying year for our family. We lived from one crisis to another." The support of people worldwide, she said, helped see them through. "We have come out of every crisis stronger and better people," she said.
In the balcony were students who unfurled a huge banner reading, "Why Hasn't Georgetown Divested?" Leaflets were passed outside, calling for the university to sell off its investments in companies that do business in South Africa.
Last May, the university's board of directors stated that the university would divest -- though not by any specific date -- from companies that do not adhere to the Sullivan Principles, which insist that companies desegregate their facilities and pay equal wages to blacks.
At the time, Georgetown had $15 million worth of investments in South African companies, according to Sara Forden, assistant director of main campus public relations. Some $2 million of that was in companies that had not signed the Sullivan Principles. The board of directors expects to meet with the school's committee on investments and social responsibility again next month.