Nine outstanding achievers will be honoured by the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) at annual graduation ceremonies which start on 15 April and continue for eight days.

Honorary degrees will be conferred on the accomplished individuals for their outstanding contributions in the human rights, scientific, arts, social sciences, political, and academic spheres.  The individuals have through their vision, humanitarian efforts, resilience, social conscience and innovation in their respective fields, made a profound change in the lives of people both in South Africa and globally.

The individuals are:

Professor Hugh Paul Africa – Doctor of Education (posthumous), Dr Uche Veronica Amazigo – Doctor of Science, Mr Johnny Clegg – Doctor of Music, Ms Ela Gandhi – Doctor of Social Science, Mr Daisaku Ikeda – Doctor of Social Science, Mr Ranjith Kally – Doctor of Literature, Dr Mosibudi Mangena – Doctor of Science, Professor Welile Shasha – Doctor of Medicine and Mr Carl Wright  – Doctor of Administration.

Hugh Africa passed away recently so the award will be accepted by a family member at the ceremony.

 Ms Ela Gandhi: Doctor of Social Science (honoris causa)
Gandhi’s outstanding contribution to social change in South Africa has been made through promoting the continued relevance of her legendary grandfather Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violent action for justice, peace and development as well as through promoting education about non-violent methods of resolving conflict and building positive relationships between people of different races and faiths.

In keeping with Mahatma’s vision, Gandhi actively promotes respect and tolerance among people of different faiths.  This has led to her appointment as a Vice-President of the World Council of Religions for Peace (WCRP) and service on the Advisory Board of the Parliament of World Religions. Gandhi has a personal record of distinguished service in the advancement of democracy, social justice, social service and community leadership.  She has promoted the ideals of the great Mahatma Gandhi through her selfless efforts to improve the lives of the poor and less fortunate. She is passionate about creating a society where peace, tolerance and harmony flourishes.

Concerned about the high levels of violence in South Africa, particularly among young people, she established the International Centre of Non-Violence (ICON) at DUT in 2007 to promote the teaching of non-violent methods of resolving conflict to schoolchildren and university students throughout South Africa. In 2002, she received the Community of Christ International Peace Award and in 2007 the Padma Bhushan Award from the Government of India for her outstanding community service – it is India’s third highest civilian honour and was conferred on her by Indian President, APJ Abdul Kalam.

 Mr Daisaku Ikeda: Doctor of Social Science (honoris causa)
Ikeda, who had a humble upbringing in Japan with limited opportunities in his youth to pursue formal education, has gone on to make globally significant contributions in the fields of education, peace and the promotion of culture. Championing a philosophy of engaged dialogue, Ikeda has pursued dialogue with leaders on a broad range of subjects including science, politics, education and culture.

He has published books in a variety of languages, founded an internationally recognised education system, and created several institutions active at the international level in the promotion of peace research and cultural exchange. His wide ranging contributions have led to him to receiving honorary doctorates from more than 300 institutions in about 50 countries as well as honorary citizenship and other commendations from 720 cities, states and local governments.

As a Buddhist philosopher, Ikeda became the President of the Soka Gakkai lay Buddhist movement in 1960 at the age of 32.  The movement now has a global network linking about 12 million members in more than 190 countries. In this capacity he encourages members in the process of personal transformation and societal contribution.

The Soka Education system he founded is a student-centred approach based on a belief in the limitless potential of every individual.  Educational institutions he has founded include kindergartens in six countries, an elementary to graduate level school in Japan and a liberal arts university established in the United States which is ranked in the Top 100 best National Liberal Arts Colleges by the US News and World Report Best Colleges 2012 Rankings.

 Mr Johnny Clegg: Doctor of Music (honoris causa)
Clegg’s iconic status in the international and Southern African popular music world stems directly from his articulation, through his widely acknowledged musically expressive language, of the most pressing realities of South Africa’s polarised racial and social identities. His musical debut at a crucial moment in the country’s struggle against apartheid was revolutionary in its juxtaposition and reconciliation of White and Zulu culture and its enlivening of a celebratory ideological model for tolerance and human brotherhood of South Africa’s abundant cultural and ethnic diversity.

His musical career demonstrates pride in the African heritage and his role is pioneering in its mediation between pervasive power asymmetries imbued by modernity to Africa and South Africa in particular. With a career spanning over 30 years, Clegg is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s most prolific musicians and performers.

In April 2012 he received a National Order, the Order of Ikhamanga, for ‘his excellent contribution to and achievement in the field of bridging African traditional music forms, promoting racial understanding among racially divided groups in South Africa under difficult apartheid conditions, working for a non-racial society and being an outstanding spokesperson for the release of political prisoners’.

Through his musical talent, musical performances and anthropological research, the dynamicity of both industrial and changing Zulu culture was articulated in the contemporary era. His pioneering scholarly research has delved into the most contentious issues of Zulu cultural adaption, including adaptive social performance practices and indigenous forms of conflict resolution.

Clegg – who campaigned against the injustices of apartheid and was instrumental in putting the new South Africa on the world map – has performed at all four of Nelson Mandela’s 46664 AIDS Awareness Concerts in South Africa and Norway.

 Dr Mosibudi Mangena: Doctor of Science (honoris causa)
As South Africa’s first Minister of Science and Technology, Mangena presided over the formulation of policies and the introduction of initiatives which drove the National Research and Development and Innovation agendas. During his tenure as Minister, Mangena was the driving force behind several initiatives for the promotion of Science and Technology, research and development as well as innovation.

His main achievements during this period include: the development of the South African 10-year Innovation Plan; the development of the National System of Innovation Policy; the establishment of the Technology Innovation Agency; the launch of the South African Space Programme and making the bid for the SKA (Square Kilometre Array); the commissioning of the South African Micro Satellite and the Sumbandile Sat; the launch of the South African Research Chairs Initiative and winning and launching the African component of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

His tenure also saw the expansion of relations between the South African science and technology system and those of other countries.

Mangena chaired the SADC ministers responsible for science and technology, and the continental African Ministers’ Council on Science and Technology. He is a prolific writer and has authored four books: On Your Own (1989); A Quest for True Humanity (1996); A Twin World (1996) and My Grandmother is Permanent (2004).

Mangena was the first patron of the Sowetan-Telkom Mathematics and Science Teacher of the Year Awards and the founder Chairperson of the SA Literacy Initiative and Masifundesonke Reading Campaign.

 Professor Hugh Paul Africa: Doctor of Education (posthumous) (honoris causa)
Africa, an education consultant, has contributed to the development of Higher Education in South Africa as a selfless leader who has served in the field for more than 50 years in various roles. He has been at the forefront of Higher Education transformation in the post-apartheid era and has distinguished himself through his high sense of integrity and care for others. A respected academic, Africa served on the Council on Higher Education and also provided exceptional leadership as Chair of the Higher Education Quality Committee which instituted a national system of quality promotion and assurance.

He was the past Chair of the US-SA Fulbright Commission Board, the Vice-President for Africa on the International Council for Distance Education, and served on the Provincial Board of ABSA and the Board of the Institute for Global Dialogue. During 2001 he served as a member of the National Working Group and during 2003 was a member of the Higher Education Restructuring Reference Group.

Africa is a highly respected educationist who has contributed to the development of Higher Education for over 50 years.  He has made major and distinguished contributions to advance Higher Education, transformation and scholarship.

 Dr Uche Veronica Amazigo: Doctor of Science (honoris causa)
A Nigeria-based public health specialist and scientist, Amazigo has made an outstanding contribution to the control of River Blindness, a neglected disease afflicting rural communities in 19 West African countries. She undertook pioneering research that formed the scientific basis for establishing the UN/World Bank-administered African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC).

Amazigo successfully co-ordinated and implemented the World Health Organisation’s African Programme for Onchocerciasis (River Blindness) Control based on community-directed treatment with ivermectin (CDTI), allowing community participation and the opportunity for poor communities to make decisions in one of the biggest ever control programmes for a single disease. Showing visionary leadership skills and the ability to motivate and initiate new programmes and secure set objectives, she repositioned APOC from a River Blindness control body to an elimination programme.  Her achievements are impressive and include engaging bilateral and multi-lateral donors and the private sectors to support over 120 000 communities in the control of River Blindness in Africa.

Amazigo was awarded her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) (Biology and Medical Parasitology) from the University of Vienna in Austria in 1977. Currently an international consultant on public health with emphasis on community-directed interventions, she was from 2005 to 2011 Director of APOC managing the control of River Blindness in 19 West African countries and maintaining the achievements in a further 11 countries.

Her research experience includes strategies for controlling neglected tropical diseases and community-directed interventions. She undertook research on adolescent reproductive health (teenage pregnancy), and produced Broken Wings, a film on teenage pregnancy for the first World Conference on Women in Beijing, China.

She was previously a scientist with the World Health Organisation, a senior Lecturer in Medical Parasitology at the University of Nigeria, a research associate – International Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston in the United States, and a research assistant at the Department of Medical Parasitology and Health at the University of Vienna in Austria.

 Mr Ranjith Kally: Doctor of Literature (honoris causa)
As an internationally acclaimed photojournalist, Kally has been a witness and archivist of some of the most poignant moments in South African history including the 1956 Treason Trial, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chief Albert Luthuli in 1961, the Rivonia Trial in 1963 and the momentous resistance events of the 1970s and 1980s, including the aftermath of the Maseru Massacre.

Kally’s pictures have graced newspapers around the world, are part of the Nobel Collection, are featured in school texts and are depicted on two South African postage stamps.

Now in his 80s, he ranks among the most politically courageous and artistically gifted photographers of his generation with his works exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and at the Nobel Peace Center Commemoration of South African Nobel Peace Laureates in 2009.  He was admitted as an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society in 1967.

His work captured important personalities in South Africa’s history including Nelson Mandela, Chief Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, Monty Naicker, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Billy Nair, Miriam Makeba and many others.

Over the years his pictures have documented the pain of forced removals, the loss of innocence associated with gangsterism, the simple life of Groutville, the portraits of eminent struggle personalities, and the everyday contradictions of racial dynamics such as two white men drinking at a local shebeen in Cato Manor, an area classified as “non-white” during the apartheid era.

 Professor Welile Shasha: Doctor of Medicine (honoris causa)
Shasha, a medical scientist and internationally recognised Public Health specialist, has played a pivotal role in health systems reforms nationally and internationally, while working for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Department of International Development (DFID).

During his remarkable career, Shasha has served as Head of an NGO and instituted the follow-up by community health worker-based primary healthcare teams of disease entities at household level, providing an evidence base for the implementation of the health system modeled on the re-engineering of primary health care as elucidated in the 10-point strategic plan of the National Department of Health.

He has facilitated and promoted public health initiatives which have made a difference to poor and rural communities.

Shasha played a leading role in the re-engineering of primary health care as a consultant to the National Department of Health; he conducted a programme evaluation to consolidate and synchronise health research in Kenya; and played a leadership role in the containment of cholera in Limpopo, which was one of three cholera control initiatives he participated in.

He has been involved in the optimisation of the National Programme of HIV/AIDS treatment centres in the nine provinces of South Africa; he served as a leading facilitator for a Public Health Course for students from the United States, Botswana and South Africa, sponsored by the WK Kellogg Foundation; and facilitated the establishment of the Ilimalethu Development Association, a national non-government organisation for sustainable rural social development which focuses on orphans and vulnerable children.

He served as the first and last South African to represent the World Health Organisation in the country as liaison officer for a period of nine years during a challenging period of AIDS denialism. His tasks included strengthening the health system in South Africa, notably the control of communicable diseases such as cholera, tuberculosis and malaria and the creation of WHO collaborating centres in various health disciplines.

 Mr Carl Wright:  Doctor of Administration (honoris causa)
Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF), Wright has dedicated himself over the past 40 years to the promotion of international co-operation, economic development, human rights, social development and development policy, especially in the area of public administration and local government.  For much of this time he has had a close association with South Africa, including the eThekwini Municipality in Durban, the then University of Durban-Westville and the merged University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Wright has spent most of his professional life in the advocacy of international co-operation, the defence of human rights and the promotion of social and economic development.  His career spans policy and representational positions in the Commonwealth, the United Nations, the European Union and other intergovernmental organisations including within the international trade union movement.

He has played an important international leadership role in public administration and policy-making reflected in the establishment and work of the Commonwealth Trade Union Council (CTUC) in 1980 and the Commonwealth Local Forum (CLGF) in London in 1995.

Central to this work has been a commitment to the promotion of international co-operation based on a deep concern about addressing issues around global conflict and political and economic inequalities.  Most recent examples of this resulted in the CLGF becoming the first Commonwealth body to formally engage with South Sudan (September 2011) and Myanmar/Burma (April 2012) with a view to helping to develop democratic local government structures.

His achievements include helping to secure international policy positions in a wide range of areas such as labour standards and trade, codes of conduct for private investors and principles of democracy.

Wright’s work has often involved activism, especially in the area of labour and trade union rights and close engagement with the anti-apartheid struggle over several decades.  This has included campaigning for better worker rights on Sri Lanka’s tea estates in the 1970s, supporting FRELIMO, SWAPO, the UDF and the ANC in the 1980s, and encouraging local democracy in many countries (ie Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe) since the 1990s.