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Father Lapsley conferred with honourary doctorate by UWC

11 April 2017
STANDING FOR JUSTICE: Father Michael Lapsley honoured by UWC for his outstanding example to the community
STANDING FOR JUSTICE: Father Michael Lapsley honoured by UWC for his outstanding example to the community

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) conferred an honourary doctorate on Anglican priest and social justice activist Father Alan Michael Lapsley of the Institute of Healing Memories.

“I am deeply honoured and grateful for the acknowledgement that comes from the University of the Western Cape. I am overjoyed,” said Lapsley.

New Zealand born and Australian educated Lapsley, 68, is the current vice-president of the South African Council of Churches and has made it his life’s mission to assist victims of tyranny, trauma and violence on the journey to healing.

“(Lapsley’s) life and achievements are a living reflection of the values, attributes and virtues, which is aligned to UWC institutional aims in being both an example and a metaphor for community engagement and transformation through institutional practice,” the university said.

In his acceptance speech Lapsley said: “I set foot in South Africa in September 1973. I often say that the day I arrived in South Africa I stopped being human and became a white man.

“As a white person I could enjoy the highest standard of living in the world, all I needed to do was to kill my conscience

“I chose to join the liberation struggle and to join the ANC. I fought for the recovery of my own humanity in solidarity with black people fighting for their basic human rights.

“The apartheid regime tried to kill me and almost succeeded. My choice was how I responded.”

Lapsley was expelled from South Africa in 1976 and went to live in exile in Lesotho, where he became chaplain to the ANC in exile. After a cross border raid by SA Police into Maseru in 1982, in which 42 people were killed, Lapsley moved to Zimbabwe.

It was in Zimbabawe, three months after Mandela was released in 1990, that Lapsley received a letter bomb from the Civil Cooperation Bureau and lost his hands and sight in one eye.

“When the bomb went off, I knew immediately that the apartheid regime had got me. I also knew immediately that they had lost and I had won because I was alive. Then began the journey of appropriating that victory which continues till today.

“During the bombing, I felt God’s presence with me… not a God who intervenes to stop letter bombs but a God who accompanies us on our journeys,” said Lapsley.

He said South Africa has become the “most unequal society on earth” and that there is “increasing evidence that the state has been captured by a small corrupt clique surrounding and including the president.”

Lapsley was accompanied to the graduation by Cuban ambassador to South Africa, Carlos Fernando De Cossio, South Africa’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Ruby Marks, Tshidi Ramahuma representing the High Commissioner of New Zealand and Dr Fulata Moyo of the World Council of Churches.


About Us

The Institute for the Healing of Memories seeks to contribute to the healing journey of individuals, communities and nations. Our work is grounded in the belief that we are all in need of healing, because of what we have done, what we have failed to do, and what has been done to us.

Contact Us

  • Institute for Healing of Memories
    5 Eastry Road, Claremont,
    Cape Town, 7708, South Africa

  • +27 21 683 6231