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SU honorary doctorates to outstanding individuals
Author: Corporate Communications Division
Published: 11/12/2018

​​​Every year Stellenbosch University (SU) awards honorary doctorates to outstanding individuals from South Africa and internationally. The honorary degrees recognise and reward excellence in a variety of fields and identify these individuals as role models for the university community.

Among the most notable honorary degree recipients in SU's centenary history are Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Bill Gates, Antjie Krog, Helen Suzman, Athol Fugard, Tito Mboweni, Naledi Pandor, David Kramer, Thuli Madonsela, Edwin Cameron and Mervyn King.

During the December 2018 graduation ceremonies, four honorary doctorates will be awarded. Prof Homi K. Bhabha, Prof Dame Glynis Breakwell, Dr Lesetja Kganyago and Justice Zak Yacoob will all receive honorary degrees.

Dr Lesetja Kganyago

Kganyago received the degree Doctor of Commerce (DCom), honoris causa during the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences graduation ceremony on Monday, 10 December at 17:30.


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Kganyago is the tenth Governor of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) and he was appointed the chair of the International Monetary and Financial Committee in January 2018, the first central bank governor from Sub-Saharan Africa to hold this post.Lesetja Kganyago.jpeg

In his introduction Prof Stan du Plessis, Chief Operating Officer at SU praised Kganyago for his formidable display of intellectual leadership in policy areas such as price and financial stability, and for his role as one of the finest public-policy minds in the country.

During his acceptance speech, Kganyago thanked his wife and children for their ongoing support and being the moral compass that has helped him stay the course during sometimes-difficult times as Reserve Bank Governor. He also challenged SU to continue its work in pursuing transformation at the institution.

“Given the history of this country, it's important that this institution pursues with vigour the transformation journey you embarked on a number of years ago, build on its successes and learn from its shortcomings. We can't just ride this transformation journey metaphorically looking in our rear-view mirror. We need to clearly spell out the kind of institution we would like to see in the future. An institution that would be diverse, not just in terms of demographics, but one that promotes diversity of thought," said Kganyago.

Kganyago also reminded graduates of the importance of not taking academic freedom for granted.

“Today we may be taking academic freedom for granted, because the Constitution guarantees it, but academic freedom is the result of gallant battles by men and women who were killed to see the transformation in our country. We should not take academic freedom for granted. We must not just embrace it, but defend it if it ever comes under threat again. Today, this honour is not just about me, but about the good men and women of the South African Reserve Bank, that you recognise the good work that we do for our country."

Judge Zakeria (“Zak") Yacoob

The degree Doctor of Laws (LLD), honoris causa, was bestowed on Zakeria (Zak) Yacoob during the Faculty of Arts and Social Science graduation ceremony on 13 December for his outstanding contribution as jurist in the field of human rights and constitutional law, for his unique, nuanced and internationally inspiring approach to adjudicating socio-economic rights, and for being a respected champion for social justice and the welfare and rights of persons with disabilities.


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As an exceptional jurist, he helped steer South Africa into democracy and, through landmark judgments, towards a legal framework that aids in addressing the deeply entrenched socio-economic legacy of apartheid. 

​Yacoob said in his acceptance speech that he has gratitude towards the whole of South Africa, especially his family, students, activists and colleagues in the Constitutional Court who supported him throughout his life. Without them I will not have been here. "I own them all great gratitude as I received opportunities that he embraced."

He also mentioned that thousands of people who participated in the freedom struggle and who have never received recognition for the role they played. Yacoob lastly as people to go in a social revolution within themselves and look into themselves; asking if they are truly not a racist or sexist. " We have the vision of being a non-racial and non-sexual country, but we can only achieve it if we have the change in our hearts."


Prof Homi K. Bhabha

The degree Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil), honoris causa was given to Homi K. Bhabha for his exceptional ability as the world's premier postcolonial literary theorist to push the humanities in new directions at the graduation ceremony of the Faculty of Arts and Social Science on Thursday evening, 13 December. Prof Bhabha is also being honoured for being influential in international organisations by advancing the role of the humanities in peace, economic activity and culture, and for making the study of the humanities relevant in current times.

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Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel (Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching) presented the introduction to Bhabha's honorary degree award. He emphasised Bhabha's exceptional capabilities of pushing Humanities into a new direction.

“For his pioneering work in establishing a new way of interdisciplinary engagement, Stellenbosch University wishes to honour Prof Homi Bhabha. As a scholar he has made the study of humanities relevant in current times and has continued to shift global practices," said Prof Schoonwinkel.

During his acceptance speech, Bhabha said that Stellenbosch University has a unique opportunity to reflect on its centenary and work towards true transformation. “If the task of transformation is undertaken with institutional and government's integrity and intellectual rigorous enquiry then the perils of the past do not drag the present back into the past. Memories of the past serves as measures of what has been achieved, what has been abused and what still needs to be done."

He also congratulated the evening's graduates and said that this achievement is not just about them but and achievement that belongs to their family, friends and communities, who have supported and nurtured them.


Prof Dame Glynis Breakwell

The degree Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil), honoris causa, was bestowed upon Prof Dame Glynis Breakwell for her outstanding contribution to Social Psychology globally and locally on how South African relate to post-Apartheid changes.

Breakwell was honored during the Arts and Social Sciences, AgriScience, Law graduation ceremony on 13 December 2018.

During her acceptance speech, Breakwell said: “I give my heartfelt thanks for this honour, from such a great university with a remarkable past and such an enormous potential for the future. I want to congratulate all graduates today, you should be proud of your achievements."

She added that she would also like to congratulate and thank the families and friends of students- who have supported them throughout their studies. “Your success may be dependent on the high quality academic care you have had here, but I am sure it would also have been influenced by the encouragement of your family and friends," she said.WhatsApp Image 2018-12-13 at 17.13.50 (1).jpeg

She said in a society faced with so many uncertainties, the disciplines of students in the Arts and Social Sciences will be even more important in showing how change can be better managed in the future.

“Solutions to our problems may require innovation in great science, engineering and medicine, such solutions rarely work unless communities will adopt and accept them, practitioners and policy makers need to understand the way that people will work with technological change, they need to have the skill and knowledge that you now have acquired as a consequence of studying at Stellenbosch University.

She concluded by saying: “I wish you enormous happiness and success in your own future but I ask that you use knowledge as far as you can, by doing so you can make a personal difference in the world, a great university like this needs to be cherished and I am honoured to be part of your community today."

For more information on all the honorary degree recipients click here.


Read the original article on the December 2018 graduation here:


 Photos and videos: Stefan Els