Start main page content

Five luminaries to be honoured at #WitsGrads

- Wits University

Wits University is proud to announce the start of the April graduation season where 5 593 students will be capped between 19 and 29 April 2022.

Wits will award honorary doctorates to human rights luminaries Dr Frene Ginwala, Mr Charles Nupen, Justice Navi Pillay, Justice Moloto and governance expert, Dr Suresh Kana. Wits’ current Chancellor, Dr Judy Dlamini will also graduate.

The April cohort comprises of undergraduate degree holders who, having completed their last two years under pandemic conditions, are particularly notable for their perseverance and resilience.

“I would like to congratulate the graduands who are being capped and those who have supported them on their journey of intellectual discovery,” says Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Zeblon Vilakazi. “Having walked a difficult path, these graduands have the honour of becoming Wits alumni at a historic time in the life of the University. Wits University turns 100 this year and I urge our graduands to advance the public good and to change society for the better.”

Wits Chancellor, Dr Judy Dlamini, also graduates this season with a postgraduate certificate in education.

The University will also confer honorary doctorates on five distinguished individuals this graduation season: Judge Navanethem ‘Navi’ Pillay, Judge Bakone Justice Moloto, Dr Frene Ginwala, Dr Suresh Kana, and Mr Charles Nupen.

“Honorary doctorates are awarded for outstanding contributions to society and the five Wits honorary graduands have all made profound and significant contributions for good in South Africa,” says Vilakazi. “South Africa is a markedly better country and a global player because of their efforts.”

Biographies of honorary graduands

Justice Navi Pillay will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws at 09:30 on 20 April 2022. This is in recognition of her groundbreaking contributions in law, justice, and human rights, and for smashing the glass ceiling for Black women on a global stage.

Pillay is a distinguished and renowned South African jurist and advocate for human rights. However, it is in her work on international criminal law and international human rights that she has achieved global recognition. She has served in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the International Criminal Court, and as the 5th United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, appointed by former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon. Pillay’s appointment was not without controversy as the US initially opposed the appointment based on Pillay’s strong commitment to women’s rights and abortion. She played a critical role in developing jurisprudence on freedom of speech and hate propaganda, as well as on rape and genocide.

Justice Bakone Justice Moloto will be bestowed with an Honorary Doctor of Laws at the 13:30 graduation ceremony on 20 April 2022. This is in recognition of a life devoted to the pursuit of justice locally and abroad. In South Africa, Moloto served in the Land Claims Court that deals with claims by people who had been dispossessed during apartheid.

Moloto served the global community with distinction as a judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). He is the only South African to sit as a judge on the ICTY, recognised as the most successful international criminal tribunal in recent years. Those appointed to this position are required to be of high moral character, impartiality, and integrity, and were elected by the General Assembly of the United Nations from a list submitted by the Security Council. Moloto’s career at the ICTY culminated in his sitting as one of three judges in the trial of the ‘Butcher of Bosnia,’ Ratko Mladic.

Moloto was a student activist who faced expulsions at university. He was also banned by the government under the Suppression of Communism Act. In his early days, he led the Legal Education Centre established by the BlackLawyers’ Association and played a considerable role in the professionalisation of black lawyers and in finding opportunities for graduates to complete their articles.

Dr Frene Ginwala will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws on 21 April 2022 in absentia. Ginwala is well-known in South African politics for her role pre- and post-democracy. Ginwala was persistent in her work to raise awareness about human rights violations in South Africa under apartheid. She realised the power of the media and the importance of alternative voices to counter the brutal regime.

Whilst in exile in Tanzania, Ginwala founded and acted as the editor of a monthly journal, Spearhead, and was later appointed as the editor of The Standard, Tanzania’s English paper. She continuously waged a war against apartheid through her work published in major international media such as The Economist, The Guardian and on the BBC. She worked with and provided safe passage for comrades leaving and returning to South Africa. As the first Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa, from 1994 to 2004, Ginwala presided over the country’s first democratic parliament and managed difficult conversations between contending parties.

Dr Suresh Kana will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Commerce degree on 22 April 2022 at 09:30. Kana is a key contributor to institutional governance and accountability in South Africa and is amongst the country’s most honoured chartered accountants. The former CEO of PwC, he joined Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC) in 1976and qualified as a chartered accountant in 1979. Despite persistent racial prejudice at the time, he became the first black professional to be admitted as a partner, at just 31 years of age. In 1996, he was appointed by the Minister of finance to serve on the Boards of Appeal of thePension Funds Act, the Unit Trust Control Act, the Stock Exchanges Control Act, and as a member of the Government Accounting Standards Board.

In 2014, the Minister of Trade and Industry appointed Kana as Chair of the Financial Reporting Standards Council, the body responsible for setting accounting standards for public companies and state-owned entities in South Africa. Kana was recently elected as Chairman of the King Committee after serving as a member of this committee for more than a decade. With an interest in human rights, the rule of law, constitutionalism, and judicial independence, he serves as a trustee of the Constitutional Court Trust.

Kana’s expertise has steered critical global social justice organisations – he is Chairman of the audit committee of the United Nations WorldFood Programme, amongst many other local and international roles.

Mr Charles David Nupen will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree at 13:30 on 22 April 2022. Nupen has played a pivotal role in the development of South Africa's system of dispute resolution both as a practicing attorney and through the creation of key dispute resolution institutions. At a time of heightened industrial conflict under apartheid, he laid the foundations for successful mediation and went on to establish South Africa's first national public dispute settlement agency, the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). Based on his experience at the CCMA, he assisted in the establishment of national dispute settlement agencies throughout southern Africa and other parts of the world. He has dedicated his working life to the resolution of conflict.