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Unisa mourns Professor Marinus Wiechers, former VC

Professor Marinus Wiechers, who retired as Unisa’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor in 1997, passed away on Friday, 31 August.

Higher education was always Professor Marinus Wiechers' first choice and first love. He shared this during a Unisa interview shortly before retiring as Principal and Vice-Chancellor in 1997.

When Wiechers began at Unisa 1960, shortly after obtaining his BA and LLB degrees at the University of Pretoria, he set in motion the makings of an illustrious career that would span nearly 38 years and that would take him from the position of lecturer in the Faculty of Law to Vice-Chancellor and Principal of one of the mega universities in the world.

In 1965 he was appointed to the Chair of Constitutional and Public International Law at Unisa – a position which he held until the end of 1993. During his academic career he was Head of the Department of Constitutional and International Law for a total of 21 years.

He served as Director of the Institute for Foreign and Comparative Law for three years and acted as external examiner to the Universities of Witwatersrand, Cape Town, Fort Hare, Zululand, Pretoria and Stellenbosch, and the former Natal (University of KwaZulu-Natal), RAU (University of Johannesburg), Durban-Westville (University of KwaZulu-Natal), Bophuthatswana (University of North-West) universities. In addition he acted as supervisor for 31 successful doctoral students and 19 master's degree students and taught part time at the University of Pretoria, RAU (University of Johannesburg), as well as Universite Rene Descartes and Ecole des Hautes Etudes Internationales in France.

Apart from his national and international academic pursuits, Wiechers was also active in the legal and political arena. As an Advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa he was the legal representative of the South African Government in the SWA/Namibia cases before the World Court; served as legal adviser to various commissions, co-drafted the Namibian Constitution and was a member of the Technical Committee for Constitutional Affairs which was responsible for the drafting of the South African interim Constitution.

During his last year at Unisa, Wiechers looked at his term as one of reform, of steering the university through unchartered seas to a new destination - one of achievement, prosperity and a rightful place in the new South Africa. Notwithstanding the trials and tribulations, Wiechers felt that Unisa was a tremendously healthy and strong institution at the time of his retirement in 1997.

“I feel confident that Unisa is poising itself once again to enhance its reputation as the world’s leading distance education university. Unisa has the strength, the capacity and the know-how to respond to the challenges of the new century. Unisa has the potential to reshape tertiary education not only in our country but further afield as well,” he said during one of his last interviews.

Since retiring, Wiechers has served as an assessor to the Land Claims Court, wrote legal opinions and articles, and participated in South African and overseas conferences. His main preoccupation was to pursue an active art career and in that capacity, he held a number of successful exhibitions showing paintings, etchings and drawings and also acted as vice-chairman of the Arts Association Pretoria.

* By Rivonia Naidu-Hoffmeester

Publish date: 2018-09-04 00:00:00.0