UP Law’s final farewell to Prof Christof Heyns and his incomparable legacy and life

Posted on April 18, 2021

The Faculty of Law (UP Law) at the University of Pretoria (UP) paid its final tribute to the late Professor Christof Heyns on Friday, 16 April 2021, as per programme herewith, which was live streamed via YouTube.



Programme Director, Deputy Dean Professor Charles Maimela, formally opened the programme and welcomed all those present, and consequently introduced Dean Professor Elsabe Schoeman.



The programme commenced with the unveiling of the Doctoral Board on the Ground Floor of the Law Building, recognising all UP Law students who have qualified for a UP doctoral degree from 1940 until the end of 2019.  Before unveiling the doctoral board, Prof Schoeman said that the board rises up against the wall on the eastern side of the Law Building, depicting the global rise of UP Law and Prof Heyns’ contribution to it.  She further mentioned that it was the plan to display a photo of Prof Heyns right at the top of the wall, as ‘it is fit for him to look down on the names recognised on the doctoral board’, of  which he and former Dean André Boraine were instrumental in updating and completing before the Forum in November 2020.  At this occasion, Prof Heyns expressed his satisfaction with the newly erected doctoral board.  No small feat, as he was a perfectionist in everything he envisioned and consequently implemented.



Regrettably, due to Covid-regulations, only 44 guests were able to attend the event in the Law Auditorium.  Professor Schoeman indicated that the reason why UP Law decided to host the event in the Law Auditorium is the fact that Prof Heyns delivered his last presentation to staff at a UP Law Teaching and Research Forum held on 18 November 2020. This suggestion came from Prof Maimela.


Fltr:  Prof Tawana Kupe and Prof Duncan Norman participated virtually in the event.


An immensely sad, but dignified event, included presentations by Prof Tawana Kupe1, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP, and UP's Prof Norman Duncan2, Vice-Principal: Academic. Prof Duncan used the poem by Maya Angelou to express his farewell and accompanying sense of loss to Prof Christof Heyns.



Three Circles of Remembrance discussed and commemorated the life and magnitude of Prof Heyns’ legacy.  The first two circles consisted of UP Law staff members, and the third of UP Law alumni, mooters and the Law House Chairperson, representing current student bodies. 


Cirle 1 - Law Auditorium:  Ltr: Prof Frans Viljoen and Prof Dire Tladi;  Virtual:  Prof Charles Fombad (bottom) and Prof Danny Bradlow (top)

Circle 2 - Ltr:  Prof Joel  Modiri, Prof Ann Skelton and Prof André Boraine

Circle 3 - Nyambeni Davhana, Gomolemo Sibeko, Keketso Kgomosotho and Mankhuwe Caroline Letsoalo III 


Speakers referred to him as a ‘baobab’, ‘a visionary’, ‘a magnet for humans’, and ‘propeller’, propelling UP Law, its staff and students forward and across the globe.

Moot court competitions were his passion and he often ensured that UP Law students participated on international platforms. His implementation of the Integrated Bar Project in the late 1980’s by the Centre for Human Rights, ensuring the access of black students to traditionally white law firms, was discussed.  His passion for, drive and involvement in the South African Student Volunteer Organisation (SASVO) were also highlighted. SASVO’s goals were to improve the quality of life in rural areas by working with community members on various projects. Three-week work camps were organised for student volunteers during holiday periods and special camps were organised for student leaders so that they could develop volunteer programmes from their campuses.

His love for books, music, playing the guitar and singing were also mentioned.  His involvement in his 'The Outlaws' band at many faculty festivals over many years brought smiles to the faces of the audience.

The circles agreed that Prof Heyns always made time to interact with staff and students to exchange ideas and his vision for UP Law and law across the globe. 

Prof Heyns’ favourite music from Leonard Cohen, Koos du Plessis and Valiant Swart reverberated at the start and conclusion of the programme.  Just as Christoff's legacy will reverberate in the halls and off the walls of UP Law.  His legacy on many levels of our lives, lives on with us. 

May his soul rest in peace.



1 and 2   Presentations provided by UP Archive

- Author Elzet Hurter

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