On Friday, 4 March 2016, the Centre for Human Rights held its annual welcoming ceremony for the students taking part in the master’s degree (LLM/MPhil) programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA). The 28 students (13 women and 15 men) come from 16 African countries as well as South Korea and Taiwan. This is the 17th successive group of students to take part in the HRDA programme since its inception in 2000.
The ceremony was held in the quaint and historic University of Pretoria Rugby Clubhouse, and included the following guests, each of whom delivered a short address:
- Ms Patience Mushungwa, Director of Human Capital, representing Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria
- Prof André Boraine, Dean: Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria
- Ms Geraldine Reymenants, Representative of the Government of Flanders in South Africa, Belgium (donor)
- Ms Phillina Wittke, Representative of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in South Africa (donor)
Other guests included representatives of the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria, diplomats, academics, students and friends of the Centre for Human Rights.
Each speaker referred to the singular nature and positive achievements of the HRDA programme and expressed gratitude and encouragement to the Centre for Human Rights for its contribution to the advancement of human rights through education, both in South Africa and in the rest of Africa.
Both Ms Mushingwa and Prof Boraine renewed their institutional support for the Centre, referring to its programmes as a source of pride for the University and for the Faculty of Law. Prof Boraine also announced the annual Dean's essay competition for which cash prizes are awarded at the end of the year.
Ms Wittke and Ms Reymenants, representing donors to the programme, said how proud they were of their collaboration with the Centre over the years and renewed their financial support to the Centre and to the programme, while wishing the students well in the year ahead.
The Class of 2016: LLM/MPhil in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa
Every year, an alumnus or alumna is invited to speak words of wisdom and encouragement to the current students. In 2016, this address was delivered by Ms Okyerebea Ampofo-Anti (Ghana, 2005), a partner at law firm Webber Wentzel. Her speech, which included anecdotes from her own student days, drew laughter and gave pause for thought when she spoke of starting one’s human rights journey inside oneself. She gave the students practical tips on how to survive the intense one-year course amidst unexpected 'tragedies' like crashing laptops and twenty-four-hour exams.
A welcome addition to the opening ceremony was a short video in which students introduced themselves and spoke about their professional backgrounds, highlighting the rich national and cultural diversity of the group. They also spoke about their joy at being selected and what it meant in terms of hopes and dreams for the years to come.
Mr Norman Taku, Assistant Director of the Centre for Human Rights, spoke glowingly about the alumni of the HRDA programme and challenged the current students to take inspiration from the examples of those who had walked the path before them and brought change to the world and pride to the Centre and to the University.
The highlight of the ceremony was the keynote speech delivered by Mr Eusebius McKaiser, political commentator, writer and speaker extraordinaire. Among other things, Mr McKaiser spoke about the limits of the law – which can be very clinical – and how the law is affected by non-law fields. He exhorted and challenged the students to tackle their studies using a multidisciplinary approach, by looking at a wide spectrum of social sciences, such as philosophy, politics, psychology and literature. He spoke powerfully and unapologetically about current ‘hot’ topics such as racism and same-sex relations.
Prof Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Human Rights, gave the closing remarks where he expressed deep appreciation to all staff of the Centre, especially those who work on the HRDA programme: Eric Lwanga, Magnus Killander and Norman Taku. Picking up on the theme of a multidisciplinary approach to the study of law, he recalled that in 2013, the HRDA master's programme was extended to non-lawyers, who are able to enrol and obtain the MPhil degree. He also took time to thank the European Union and all the other donors and partners of the programme for their support over the years. As a gift from the Centre, Prof Viljoen presented each student with an autographed copy of Eusebius McKaiser’s latest book Run racist run. He then presented Mr McKaiser with a book containing a collection of cartoons from the famous political satirist, Jonathan Shapiro (aka Zapiro), in which all the students had written a message of thanks and appreciation to Mr McKaiser. He invited everyone present to take part in the many activities planned during 2016 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Centre for Human Rights.
The formal ceremony gave way to a cocktail and dance, where many of the students showed off their dance moves in their colourful traditional clothes.
The Centre is proud to welcome the 2016 HRDA class, and gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the donors:
The European Union (main donor)
Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD)
Embassy of The Netherlands
Embassy of Norway
Delegation of Flanders
For more photos, please visit the Centre's website.
For more information, please contact:
LLM/MPhil (HRDA) Programme Coordinator
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 3228