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President of Portugal gives brief history lecture to Wits students

- Wits University

Wits University hosted the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, during his state visit to South Africa on 07 June 2023.

Rebelo de Sousa, alongside his Prime Minister António Costa and several members of his delegation, met with Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Zeblon Vilakazi and other senior members of the university to discuss a shared vision of preserving Portuguese knowledge and heritage among both Portuguese students and the broader Wits community.

"As an institution of higher learning, we are strengthening the educational ties between our two nations. Our young people will be the ones to set the tone for the future," said Vilakazi as he welcomed the President and his delegation.

Apart from his political engagements, Rebelo de Sousa is known for his work as a Professor of Law at the University of Lisbon, where he taught for several decades. He used the occasion to briefly lecture students from the Portuguese Language Centre of Camões on the history of Portugal and the Portuguese language.

President of Portugal engages with students in Senate Room

He spoke of the Carnation Revolution of 1974 which saw a military coup decolonise Portugal and ultimately resulted in the birth of their democracy. The country will celebrate 50 years of the revolution in 2024. He also noted the important relationship Portugal has with South Africa.

"South Africa is home to the third largest community of Portuguese nationals outside of Portugal. Portuguese is also the second most spoken language in the southern hemisphere," said Rebelo de Sousa.

"This shows you how important the community and language are, both in international and non-governmental institutions."

Several students also engaged with Rebel de Sousa on the importance of leadership and politics in the European state and its relationship with South Africa.

President of Portugal with students from the Portuguese Language Centre

He told students that both countries came from a similar history where democracy ultimately overthrew tyranny and that the fight for a peaceful democracy must continue.

Portuguese history and heritage are well-preserved at Wits in the form of books and artefacts. The Diaz Cross located in the foyer of the William Cullen Library is notably an important artefact of Portuguese history preserved on campus. The cross serves as a historical reminder of Portugal's voyages around the southern African coast in the 15th century.

About the Portuguese Language Centre

Wits University and the Camões, Institute of Cooperation and Language collaborated to create the ‘Portuguese Language Centre of Camões’ within the ‘School of Literature, Language and Media’ (‘SLLM’) in the Faculty of Humanities. 

The centre is dedicated to students' multimedia, study, research, and library space. It facilitates students’ tertiary education in the Portuguese language, lusophone literature and cultures. The centre was inaugurated on 5 March 2002 within the SLLM and is one such institution to promote the Portuguese language and lusophone cultures on the African continent. 

The centre aims to disseminate the Portuguese language as a language of international and continental communication; endorse the diverse cultures and literature associated with the Portuguese language; and strengthen the academic, intellectual and cultural relations within the multi-cultural context of Wits University.