On 11 February 2014, Professor Jonathan Jansen, the Vice Principal and Rector of University of the Free State, addressed a gathering to welcome 26 African students from all over the continent who are at the University of Pretoria to pursue a Master’s degree in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa. The Master’s programme to which the students are admitted is presented by 13 African universities under the stewardship of the Centre for Human Rights (CHR), Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria. The event was attended by donors, members of the diplomatic corps, senior management of the University of Pretoria, students and members of the public.
In his speech titled “Nearness as an approach to solving human wrongs,” Professor Jansen spoke about the key qualities to which leaders should aspire. He noted that leadership is often mistaken for toughness. This misconceived idea of leadership is pervasive on the African continent and creates more problems than it solves.
Professor Jansen said that leadership must be about being close to the people that one leads. Those who are led would be more understanding if a leader showed closeness even when things are not going well. Good leadership should be about being empathetic, allowing oneself to feel what those she or he leads feel. Being accessible was a very important quality for leaders because that is why people appoint them or elect leaders into office. True leadership, he said, requires listening more than talking. Professor Jansen emphasised that proper leadership involves paying attention not only to those who are succeeding in society but being particularly aware and in touch with the most needy in society. True leadership is about sacrifice and not about self-enrichment.
The 2014 Master’s Class consists of 13 women and 13 men from 15 African countries. The students were admitted to the programme following a very intensive selection process.
Having started with its first intake in 2000, the Master’s programme in 2014 marks 15 years of existence. The number of graduates of the programme stands at 402, drawn from 42 countries. The alumni of the programme work in academia, civil service, national and international non-governmental organisations, international organisations such as the African Union Commission and the United Nations.
The programme is funded by the European Union, the German Academic Exchange Services, Open Society Foundation and benefits indirectly from funding from the Flemish Delegation and Norwegian Government.