Leaders of change recognised at Nelson Mandela University

The Rev Frank Chikane and Prof Morgan Chetty at the graduation ceremony at NMU
The Rev Frank Chikane and Prof Morgan Chetty at the graduation ceremony at NMU
Image: Werner Hills

Four outstanding South Africans were recognised for their contributions to the quest for democracy and social justice with doctorates at the Nelson Mandela University graduation ceremony on Friday.

They are Dr Vuyo Mahlati, Sibongile Mkhabela, Prof Morgan Chetty and the Rev Frank Chikane.

Eastern Cape-born social entrepreneur and activist Mahlati was first to receive her doctorate for her efforts in intensifying the global call for inclusive economic growth and development, and her scholarship and praxis of entrepreneurship and economic development, particularly in marginal rural economies.

She expressed her appreciation for the award and touched on the role of universities in advancing inclusive growth.

“Inclusive growth is not assimilation or forcing others into spaces they don’t identify with – it involves the reconfiguration of the ecosystem to one that respects and recognises the reality of all and enables effective contribution by all.

“It requires the development of support systems and new instruments, learning from and about each other.

“It also pushes us to build innovative, inclusive and sustainable institutions that are proudly owned by all and serve all equally,” Mahlati said.

Chetty has dedicated almost 40 years of his life to promoting access to quality healthcare, focusing on the poor and disenfranchised.

He was recognised for his role in upskilling doctors in SA, leading 5,000 primary care doctors and the empowerment of patients on their rights.

“We have a world characterised by an unprecedented level of economic development, technological advancement, and increasing financial resources – yet millions of people are living in extreme poverty. This is a moral outrage,” Chetty said.

He hoped to make people more concerned about health challenges and to see the need to be part of the journey to reengineer health delivery.

Social worker Mkhabela and political activist Chikane were also honoured on Friday.

In her opening speeches at the morning and afternoon sessions on Friday, NMU chancellor Dr Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi called for graduates to use their education to change the world and strive for social justice by playing their part in strengthening democracy, equality and justice.

“[This includes making] sure you play your part in making society a safe space for women and men in this era of intolerable gender violence that we are seeing on our campuses and in our society,” she said.