The Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria joins the world in mourning the death of Nelson Mandela. In the same breath, we raise our collective voice, with the millions of others who identify themselves as children of Nelson Mandela in one way or another, to celebrate his life and legacy.

Like so many others, the Centre for Human Rights encountered Nelson Mandela in many wonderful ways over the years:

For two years, from 1995 to 1996, our founding Director, and now Constitutional Court Judge, Johan van der Westhuizen worked closely with him as a member of the Independent Panel of Recognised Constitutional Experts advising the Constitutional Assembly on the drafting of South Africa's final Constitution; and member of the Technical Refinement Team responsible for the actual drafting of the text.

In 1995 he lent his support to SASVO (the Southern African Students’ Volunteer Organisation), once the largest beneficiary of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. Over 12 years, over 9000 university students volunteered during the winter and summer holidays, building classrooms, toilets and playgrounds in countries all over Southern Africa.

mandela with sasvo

In June 1995, he welcomed participants to the First African Human Rights Moot Court Competition, calling the young law students “teachers, judges and leaders of tomorrow”. The Moot Competition has grown into the largest human rights education initiative in Africa, involving 141 universities from 49 African countries.

mc 2005 Nelson Mandela letter

In 2003 the Centre was fortunate to acquire The Robben Island Lighthouse, one of the paintings in the My Robben Island Collection, which he says represents ‘the finest qualities of the human spirit’ and ‘projects the idea that even the most fantastic dreams can be achieved if we are prepared to endure life’s challenges.’

mandela lighthouse

mandela writing

The moral power of his quiet example has inspired a generation, including the hundreds of men and women, young and old, from all over the world, who have walked through our doors since the Centre was established 27 years ago – a symbolic and befitting age for the Centre for Human Rights at the time of Nelson Mandela’s passing. As staff and visitors of the Centre walk under the portrait that adorns our walls, may we draw strength and inspiration from his memory; may we never grow weary of the struggle for an equal, just and fair society; and may we always aspire to a life of service to the world around us.

Mandela poster



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