Distinguished individuals receive UCT hon docs

03 April 2024 | Story Kamva Somdyala. Read time 4 min.
Four distinguished individuals received UCT honorary doctorates at the recent March graduation. <b>Photo</b> Robyn Walker.
Four distinguished individuals received UCT honorary doctorates at the recent March graduation. Photo Robyn Walker.

During the March graduation run, the University of Cape Town (UCT) awarded honorary doctorates to four distinguished individuals.

The university awards high academic honours in the form of doctorate degrees (honoris causa), across a multitude of fields, in recognition of top-rated work that has made a difference and a contribution to society.

Shirley Gunn – Doctor of Social Science (honoris causa)

Shirley Gunn signs the Golden Book. Photo Ruairi Abrahams.

Shirley Gunn, a UCT alumna, epitomises dedication to social justice and transformative work, closely aligned with the university’s values. Her activism can be traced back to the 1970s, when she was involved with the African National Congress’s (ANC) Umkhonto we Sizwe armed wing. Having suffered detention during apartheid, she has not faltered in her advocacy.

Gunn has advocated tirelessly for the rights of marginalised groups, focusing on empowerment and human rights protection. Her efforts extend globally, aiding vulnerable populations in post-conflict regions. As the executive director of the Human Rights Media Centre, she conducts extensive research, collaborates on projects, and liaises with stakeholders, showing exceptional leadership.

Professor Brian John Huntley – Doctor of Science (honoris causa)

Prof Brian Huntley with UCT’s chancellor, Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe. Photo Brenton Geach.

Professor Brian Huntley’s impactful career in biodiversity research spans over five decades, beginning in Angola as a government ecologist. His work includes spearheading major programmes in ecosystems, fostering integrated research and management initiatives. He was appointed the chief executive officer of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) in 1990.

Professor Huntley’s scientific contributions, including numerous publications and infrastructure enhancements at SANBI, have earned global recognition. His transformative efforts extend to the establishment of national parks and cultural initiatives, leaving an enduring impact on biodiversity conservation and research.

Lionel Basil Davis – Doctor of Social Science (honoris causa)

Lionel Davis with (from left) UCT Registrar Royston Pillay and Vice-Chancellor (interim) Emer Prof Daya Reddy. Photo Nasief Manie.

Born in District Six, Cape Town, Davis endured apartheid’s injustices, serving time on Robben Island for sabotage. Unbothered by the restrictions placed on him, he taught art at the Community Arts Project. He later co-founded the CAP Poster Workshop – an integral anti-apartheid activism-focused grouping.

A UCT alumnus, Davis went on to become a respected artist whose work has been celebrated nationally and internationally. Recognised with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Arts and Culture Trust, he merges art with activism, preserving the history of District Six and Robben Island. The honorary degree awarded to Davis aligns with UCT’s values, honouring his indelible impact on South African society.

Professor Lehlohonolo Burns Banda Jiyane Machobane – Doctor of Social Science (honoris causa)

Prof Lehlohonolo Machobane Photo Nasief Manie.

Professor Lehlohonolo Machobane is a trailblazing scholar and stateman who embarked on a remarkable academic journey from Lesotho to the United States. His travels culminated in a groundbreaking PhD from the University of Edinburgh. He then returned to Lesotho, where he served in various educational and governmental roles, leaving an indelible mark on both fronts. Proficient in African and Basotho history, his seminal work, Government and Change in Lesotho, 1800–1966, remains pivotal in understanding the nation’s political evolution.

His contributions extend to cultural preservation and community development, earning him acclaim as a multifaceted leader and scholar revered across Southern Africa.

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