Anti-apartheid activist receives honorary degree

2011-04-15 00:00

JUSTICE Zakeria Mohammed Yacoob said it was wonderful to share in the joy and sense of excitement of the new graduates when he was awarded an honorary doctorate in law by the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in Durban yesterday.

Yacoob said did his law degree at the University of Durban Westville, when it was still called “Bush College”.

He told the graduates, “It was open to Indians only in pursuance of the horrendous racist policies of the apartheid regime. You have received your law degrees in the constitutional era at a time when we are still a fledgling democracy. We are committed to a society based on fundamental human rights, non-racialism, the rule of law, fairness and justice and most importantly equality and non-discrimination.”

Yacoob is widely respected as one of South Africa’s sharpest legal minds.

He lost his sight at just 16 months after contracting meningitis. However, this disability and the social and political ills of the time did not discourage him from reaching the pinnacle of success in his career.

Yacoob is a veteran anti-apartheid activist. He was also a member of the Natal Indian Congress for 10 years. During that time he organised and took part in protests, produced and distributed publicity material and addressed numerous mass meetings.

During the early years of his professional career Yacoob championed the cause of the oppressed and underprivileged victims of apartheid legislation. He also represented and advised many people who were prosecuted for contraventions of the provisions of restriction orders imposed in terms of security legislation.

Among his list of accomplishments is helping to draft chapter three of the interim constitution of South Africa.

He advised negotiating parties and contributed towards achieving consensus, and as commissioner on the Independent Electoral Commission he helped to plan and set up national, regional and local structures necessary to ensure the success of the first democratic election in South Africa.

Justice Zakeria Yacoob to UKZN law graduates

You have received your law degrees in the constitutional era at a time when we are still a fledgling democracy.

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