In remembrance of the late Professor Christof Heyns, the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, held a tree-planting ceremony on 15 November 2021. Copies of a memorial publication, containing a collection of tributes to Christof, Christof Heyns: In memoriam 1959-2021, were also handed to family and friends.

The lowveld chestnut tree was planted between the Faculty of Law building and the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA) house on the Hatfield Campus at the University of Pretoria. In his professional life at the University of Pretoria, Professor Heyns was Director of the Centre and Dean of the Faculty (with his office located in the Faculty of Law building) and Director of ICLA (with his office based in the ICLA house).

The ceremony was attended by family, friends and colleagues of Prof Heyns, including the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, Professor Tawana Kupe, Professor Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Human Rights, Professor Elsabe Schoeman, Dean of the Faculty of Law and Professor Charles Maimela, Deputy Dean of the Faculty. Delivering remarks at the event, Professor Kupe named the tree the ‘Christof Heyns Tree of Life’.

As Professor Christof Heyns worked in collaboration with many people and made an impact throughout his career, the chestnut tree, indigenous to Africa, was planted to symbolise the huge impact that Prof Christof Heyns has made on the African continent and globally, and his unwavering drive to advance and promote human rights.

Christof Heyns: In memoriam 1959-2021 was compiled by the Centre for Human Rights.  Copies were presented to the late Christof’s mother, his wife Fearika, his children Willemien and Adam, and his brother Stephan. The book is a compilation of messages of support received by the Centre after Christof Heyns’ passing. The book is dedicated to keep alive the memory and legacy of Professor Christof Heyns.

The memorial publication is a product of the labour of love of Yolanda Booyzen, at the time the Manager of the Centre’s Communication and Advocacy Unit. She said: "Prof Christof Heyns was so many things to so many people. This book tries to capture the countless ways in which he impacted on the lives of colleagues, students and friends across the globe. We wanted to give the Heyns family a concrete glimpse into his legacy by compiling a book that contains memories and photographs from the legal and human rights community. The multitude of messages contained in the book provides a poignant reflection on the consequential life of Prof Christof Heyns, who we miss dearly."

“Christof was a son of the University of Pretoria’s soil. It is from here that he grew professionally. It is most suitable that a tree is planted here to honour his life’s work and his continuous influence,” remarked Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre.

The memory and legacies of Professor Christof Heyns are kept alive in a number of ongoing initiatives: the Christof Heyns Memorial Thesis Award, the Christof Heyns African Human Rights Moot Court Competition, and the Christof Heyns Human Rights Scholarship.


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