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Unisa honours Kgosana

Unisa conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) posthumously on political activist and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) stalwart, the late Mr Philip Ata Kgosana, at a graduation ceremony on Tuesday 5 November 2019, at the Unisa Muckleneuk Campus. 

Kgosana is known for leading a protest demonstration at the age of 23 on 30 March 1960, where 30 000 protestors opposing the country's pass laws marched from Langa to Cape Town. This peaceful march subsequently led to his arrest, following which he fled into exile. During his 30 years in exile, Kgosana demonstrated outstanding servant leadership qualities. He served at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) from 1976 until his retirement in 1996 as a programme officer in Uganda, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Botswana.

Bani Kgosana, son of the late Philip Ata Kgosana

Delivering the acceptance address, Mr Bani Kgosana, the son of the late PAC struggle hero, reminisced about the conditions that his father experienced when he was studying towards his honours degree through Unisa during the apartheid years. He recalled how his father would open packages received from Unisa by throwing them down on the grass as a safety strategy. He said the anecdote demonstrated his father’s willingness to risk his life for his education. "In 1976, after writing his final exams in the German Embassy in Lusaka, he received his BA honours degree In Economics from Unisa. For that, we, as a family, are very grateful. Seeing the futility of continuing to pursue an education in the midst of the naked injustice that surrounded him, my father opted to join the struggle for the liberation of South Africa, or Azania as they called it."

Kgosana said that his father’s story was not his alone. "Almost his entire journey in exile was shared by my mother, Alice Kgosana. As a young nurse who had just completed her training at Baragwanath hospital in 1967, she took the brave decision to leave her home and join him in Ethiopia – a country that might just as well have been on another planet for this farm girl from Matatiele. Fifty years later she was still by his side when he passed away on 19 April 2017. This honour being conferred on my father today, therefore, belongs as much to her as it does to him. The fact that among the last acts of his life was to complete a degree in theology at the age of 79, bears testament to her ongoing support."

Kgosana said what was most special about the day, was the fact that the same university whose study material his father threw on the grass, was the one conferring an honorary doctorate on him. "As an alumnus of this institution, it is with great pride that I receive this degree on his behalf."

Prof Mandla Makhanya (left), Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, and Bani Kgosana (right), son of the late Philip Ata Kgosana

In conclusion Kgosana appealed to the institution to continue bringing light to the hundreds of thousands of students who depend on the administrative and academic staff for their dream of getting a tertiary education. "As was the case with my father, this institution maintained the integrity of its mandate to provide quality distance education to anyone who qualified for it; whether they were on Robben Island, in exile or Pollsmoor prison. So, long may this rich tradition continue and long may Unisa represent the ability of education to transcend any boundaries that political or economic or social systems may try to put in its way."

Prof Mandla Makhanya, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said that the university conferred the honorary degree on the late Kgosana in recognition of his outstanding performance and political service over the years. "Unisa applauds his contribution to the campaign march he led in Cape Town towards the liberation of South Africa from colonial dominance and his dedication to the causes of social justice, liberation and equality," he concluded.

* By Edgar Rathelele, Senior Media Officer, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2019/11/06