Every year the University of Cape Town (UCT) confers honorary doctorates on individuals who have excelled and made significant contributions to society and in their respective fields. This year, these esteemed degrees will be awarded to six individuals at the 2022 graduation ceremonies. The respected individuals are:
Sir Franklin Berman QC: Doctor of Laws (honoris causa)
Sir Franklin Berman has made an immense contribution to the growth and development of international law and international dispute resolution. A graduate of UCT with a BA and BSc Mathematics, Sir Frank joined the British Foreign Office in 1965, where he served in various capacities, including: legal adviser to the British military government in Berlin, legal counsellor to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, counsellor to the UK Mission to the United Nations, and legal advisor to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In these roles he was able to contribute to the settlement of international disputes and to the development of various laws.
Sir Frank led the UK delegation negotiating the drafting of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which set up an historic mechanism for addressing impunity for international crimes. He has also served as an ad hoc judge of the International Court of Justice – the only court that issues binding decisions in international law.
In 1996 Sir Frank was knighted by the Queen of England and was recognised by Queen’s Council in 2006. His life-long contribution to international law and UCT only deems it fitting that he be a recipient of a UCT honorary doctorate.
Dr Rob Adam: Doctor of Science (honoris causa)
Dr Rob Adam is the managing director of the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory. He has served as chief director: Science, Technology and Terminology; deputy director-general: Science and Technology; director-general of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology; chief executive officer: South African Nuclear Energy Corporation and director of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio-telescope in South Africa. He was a key figure in the advancement of science and technology in South Africa in the 1990s.
He has also been credited for his leading role in the establishment of the world’s largest optical telescope and the world’s most sensitive radio telescope. Over the years he has received prestigious awards such as the Lifetime Achievers Award of the South African National Energy Association, and he has been knighted as Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite by the President of the Republic of France.
Dr Adam holds a BSc Hons from UCT and an MSc and PhD from UNISA.
As someone who has made outstanding contributions to the advancement of science and technology in South Africa, Dr Adam is more than deserving of this honour from UCT.
Mr Geoffrey Budlender SC: Doctor of Laws (honoris causa)
Mr Geoffrey Budlender has been pushing for social justice and human rights since he was a student at UCT in the early 1970s when he was the president of the Students’ Representative Council and, later, chair of the Council of the National Union of South African Students that led student protests against the apartheid regime. He later became the co-founder of the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) where he was the director between 1993 and 1996 helping the poor and marginalised.
Between 1996 and 2000, Budlender served as director general of South Africa’s Department of Land Affairs during Nelson Mandela’s presidency. Here, he was integral to the process of re-incorporating homelands into the new South Africa, and in the revision and reform of various laws. He returned to the LRC between 2000 and 2004, where he was involved in some of the most profound and ground-breaking decisions the Constitutional Court has produced to date. His work received international acclaim and inspired many countries throughout the world to constitutionalise socio-economic rights and to introduce judicial means of enforcing them.
Recently, he received the Pro Bono Award from the International Bar Association in recognition of his immense contribution to social justice and public interest litigation.
These contributions, and his dedication to helping those less fortunate, are among the many reasons why Mr Budlender will be honoured by his alma mater.
Professor Khaya Mfenyana: Doctor of Science in Medicine (honoris causa)
Professor Khaya Mfenyana is a family physician and a leader in health professions education. As founding head of the department of Family Medicine at the University of Transkei, he played a leading role in its establishment, and later his strategic leadership was integral following the transition of the University of Transkei into the Walter Sisulu University (WSU). He became the first executive dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and eventually the interim vice-chancellor and principal of WSU from 2014 to 2016.
A lifetime of commitment to primary healthcare is manifested in his contributions to rural development and the essential role of communities in the education and training of health professionals. He was vital in the creation of a community-based approach to health professions education, as well as the development of the commitment to social accountability. This pedagogical approach was later emulated by other universities.
As a leader, Professor Mfenyana has chaired the South African Committee of Medical Deans, the Professional Conduct Review Committee and Education Training and Quality Committees of the Health Professions Council of South Africa. He is also a recipient of awards including: the JC Coetzee Lecture Award by the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa, Discovery Foundation Rural Fellowship Award: Distinguished Visitor, and Doctor of Science in Medicine (honoris causa) award by the University of the Witwatersrand. With such an illustrious career and commitment to the betterment of the teaching medical fraternity, one that helps all, Professor Mfenyana is the type of person who embodies the values of a UCT honorary doctorate recipient.
Mr Mzolisi ka Toni: Doctor of Social Science (honoris causa)
Mr Mzolisi ka Toni is the secretary general of Disabled People South Africa (DPSA), the national disability rights movement, and has spent a lifetime driving disability activism. He led a team from DPSA, the Disabled Children’s Action Group and the SA Federal Council on Disability in a collaboration between UCT and the Centre for Disability Studies at Leeds University, resulting in the development of an innovative disability studies curriculum at UCT – the first of its kind in Africa.
Mr Ka Toni’s efforts to advance disability rights in South Africa culminated in the first Postgraduate Diploma in Disability Studies being launched at UCT in 2003.
Today the Division of Disability Studies in UCT’s Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences in the Faculty of Health Sciences has a staff complement of six people, reflecting diversity, and offers four academic programmes. Two research units have been established in the department and Mr Ka Toni continues to give strategic advice and leadership. His expertise and personal experience in leading transformation, inclusivity, and sustainability through co-creating knowledge with the disability sector has been integral to the university. His contributions have extended the influence of the Global South, taking us closer to achieving disability inclusion in South Africa and globally; and for this reason UCT could not be more honoured that he has agreed to accept this honorary doctorate.
Professor Laetitia Rispel: Doctor of Science (honoris causa)
Laetitia Rispel is a professor of Public Health at the University of the Witwatersrand, where she holds the South African Research Chair for Research on Health Workforce for Equity and Quality. As a public health leader globally, she has made valuable contributions to both academic scholarship and policy making, internationally.
She has published extensively on different aspects of health policy and systems research, informing the re-structuring and transformation of the South African healthcare system. Her commitment to developing other African scholars, particularly black women leaders, is commendable; she mentored the current president of the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa, who is the first black woman and the first public health specialist to hold this role.
In 2020, her two-year term as the president of the World Federation of Public Health Associations came to an end. She was the first woman from Africa, and the third in the more than 50-year history of the Federation elected to this prestigious position. She has also produced five books and 52 journal articles in the last eight years while also supervising students.
Professor Rispel holds a BSc (Nursing) from UCT, a BSc (Hons) in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from Stellenbosch University, and an MSc and a PhD in Medicine from the University of the Witwatersrand. As a thought leader on social justice and someone who has continued to put people at the centre of the health system in South Africa, it is only appropriate that she be recognised for these incredible achievements by her alma mater. She is the type of graduate we aim to encourage at UCT.
All these recipients have excelled in their fields and achieved levels of success that have positively impacted the lives of others. We are privileged that they have agreed to accept these honorary doctorates.
FEBRUARY 2022 | VC PROF MAMOKGETHI PHAKENG