At the Centre for Human Rights Graduation Ceremony on 7 December 2018, which was the last Graduation Ceremony presided over by the current Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the University, Professor Cheryl de la Rey, an honorary doctorate degree was awarded to former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke. The event, at which degrees were awarded to students in human rights, commemorates 100 years since the birth of former President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, and 70 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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Honorary doctorate to Justice Moseneke

The recipient of the honorary doctorate, Justice Dikgang Moseneke, retired in May 2016 after serving for more than ten years as the Deputy Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa. He was a Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa since 2002; and before that a judge of the High Court in Pretoria. Justice Moseneke’s contribution to the legal profession has been immense. He attained the highest judicial office, and delivered erudite and courageous judgments. Apart from being a committed campaigner for human rights, he also has emerged as a South African with the highest levels of integrity.  These characteristics made him an ideal choice to head the recent inquiry into the death of more than 100 patients transferred from Life Esidimeni.

In 1993, Moseneke was appointed to serve on the technical committee that drafted the 1994 Interim Constitution for a democratic South Africa; and in 1994 he was appointed deputy chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, which conducted the first democratic elections in South Africa. He has served in several community based organisations and non-governmental organisations including as Chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. Moseneke has been keenly associated with tertiary education.  Until very recently, he served as the Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand. He is a recipient of numerous awards of honour, including the Order of Luthuli in Gold – South Africa’s Highest National Award.

Justice Moseneke was not only born in Pretoria, but spent much of his professional life here, and still lives in the city. The University of Pretoria is therefore extremely proud to honour this son of its soil. Justice Moseneke’s life of integrity has been dedicated to the pursuit of human rights. Like few other, he symbolizes the ability of the human spirit to overcome great adversity.

Previous recipients of the honorary LLD degrees (honoris causa) awarded within Faculty of Law, include former President Nelson Mandela (1997), former Chief Justice Ishmail Mahomed (1997), Justice Arthur Chaskalson, former Chief Justice of South Africa and the first president of the South African Constitutional Court (2007), Justice Yvonne Mokgoro Judge of the  Constitutional Court (2008),  Ms Navi Pillay UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (2009), Adv Geoge Bizos, anti-apartheid activist and seasoned human rights advocate (2011) and Justice Johann van der Westhuizen Judge of the Constitutional Court and (2013).

Graduating students

At the Graduation, students of the Centre’s Master’s in Human Rights and Democratisation Africa programme (HRDA), also graduated. The Centre is a pioneer in African human rights education, having established the HRDA in 2000 as the first ever Africa-specific human rights Master’s degree. This is the 19th graduation of the HRDA. 27 students (15 men and 12 women) from 14 countries (Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zimbabwe) are graduating in 2018.

This year, there were 8 distinctions, which similar to last year, is the highest number of distinctions the HRDA class has ever had.

The programme is presented in partnership with 12 other Universities across Africa:

Université d'Abomey-Calavi (Benin), Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia), Catholic University of Central Africa (Cameroon), University of Nairobi (Kenya), Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (Mozambique), Université Gaston Berger de Saint Louis (Senegal), University of Ghana, University of Lagos (Nigeria), University of Mauritius, Makerere University (Uganda), University of Venda and the University of the Western Cape (South Africa).

Five students on another Master’s programme presented by the Centre, the LLM/ MPhil (Multidisciplinary Human Rights), also graduated. 

Nine doctoral students graduated during the Ceremony. Six of them are registered in the Centre for Human Rights.

HRDA Graduation Prizes

Nimrod Muhumuza:

  • Nelson Mandela Prize, for obtaining the best average percentage in the course
  • The Kéba M’Baye Prize, for the highest percentage for his dissertation. The percentage used is the average of the three institutions that assess the dissertation
  • The Victor Dankwa Prize (shared) for obtaining the best mark in the module Human Rights in Africa (Module 4):

Marystella Auma Simiyu:

  • The Victor Dankwa Prize (shared) for obtaining the best mark in the module Human Rights in Africa (Module 4)

Basiru Bah:

  • The Ubuntu Prize, for having best embodied the values and spirit of Ubuntu during the course. Ubuntu, or compassion, means ‘to suffer with’ and involves a process of identifying with our neighbours and recognising our common humanity. This prize is calculated by allowing each student one vote, two times in the year – in June, before departure to the partner universities, and in November, before students return to Pretoria.

Vera Chirwa Prize

The Vera Chirwa Prize, which is awarded to every to an alumnus or alumna of the HRDA programme, for his or her outstanding contribution to the realisation of human rights in Africa, was conferred (in absentia) to Mr Solomon Joojo CobbinnahMr Solomon Joojo Cobbinnah (Class of 2013) in recognition of his contribution towards the advancement of socio-economic rights of the most vulnerable in Africa, especially in Ghana, through the use of media and courageous journalism. Mr Cobbinnah was the first student to have graduated with an MPhil from the programme.

Commemorating former President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

The event is part of the Centre/ University’s commemoration of 100 years since the birth of former President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. He was born on 18 July 1918, in Mvezo, a village near Mthatha, Eastern Cape, South Africa. He has honoured us by accepting the honorary doctorate from UP in 1997. Nelson Mandela is an icon of human rights, like very few others. On this occasion, we honour Nelson Mandela’s commitment to values and his dedication to the service of humanity, not only in respect of human rights, but also in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the upliftment of poor and underdeveloped communities.

Marking 70 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Graduation is part of the Centre’s commemoration of 70 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (on 10 December 1948). The Centre, to draw attention to this commemoration on the UP campus, launched a Multimedia Competition, inviting UP students and staff to submit creative portrayal of any of the 30 provisions of the Universal Declaration, in four creative categories, (a) still image; (b) audio-visual; (c) oral/ video; (d) written entry.  Entrants were advised to deal with issues that are personal to them and to look critically at the rights that have had a direct impact on their lives. UP members were encouraged to tell the story of who they are and where they are in the context of the rights enshrined in the UDHR. Winners will be announced in the second, more informal part of the programme, hosted by the Centre.

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For more information, please contact:

Dr Ashwanee Budoo

Tel: +27 (0)12 420 6703
Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743



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