CPUT honours leaders in arts, film, struggle

Chancellor Thandi Modise caps honorary doctorate recipient Mildred Mandu Ramakaba-Lesiea.

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology last week awarded three honorary doctorates to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution in their respective fields.

The doctorates were awarded to Artscape Theatre Centre CEO Marlene le Roux; South African film producer Anant Singh, and political activist Mildred Mandu Ramakaba-Lesiea.

About 7 200 students graduated at the Bellville campus from Saturday March 25 to Friday March 31.

Ms Le Roux, from, Boston, received her Honorary Doctorate in Education on Thursday March 30, and cheering her on from the front row was a very special guest – Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

She was honoured for her contribution to the performing arts, education and social transformation in South Africa.

Ms Le Roux told the graduates that she was pleased to be honoured by CPUT because the education offered at the university was relevant and important.

She dedicated her honour to all persons living with disabilities especially young rural girls.

“I count myself fortunate enough to be one of the few with a disability who is gainfully employed. The motto with which I live my life is, ‘Life owes you nothing’. Your attitude in life will determine how people will perceive you. Share with others your wealth, and life will become simple and manageable,” she said.

Then, speaking directly to Archbishop Tutu, she thanked him for being at the event.

“Tata Arch, you made my day, in fact you made all of our day. You are our spiritual leader who keeps the world accountable,” she said.

In the 1980s, Mr Singh dropped out of his second year of engineering studies at the University of Durban Westville to open a video rental business.

Fast forward decades later, and he is one of the most successful film producers in the country with films like Long Walk to Freedom, Cry the Beloved Country and Sarafina! under his belt.

He received an Honorary Doctorate in Design for his contribution to the development and sustainability of the South African film industry.

“I made a choice at a time when there weren’t many opportunities to go to film school. I thought I’ll take my chances, and, obviously, it didn’t work out too badly, but today I think graduating is important because the opportunities for emerging graduates are more significant than they ever were and they are able to take up positions in new fields,” he said.

Mr Singh dedicated his honorary doctorate to the late struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada, whom, he said, was a close friend and an inspiration.

Ms Ramakaba-Lesiea was honoured on Friday March 31 with a Doctorate in Public Management for her contribution to a democratic South Africa.

At the age of 16, she found work as a domestic worker after being forced to drop out of Standard 6 (Grade 8) at Kensington High School. After joining the ANC in 1954, she steadily matured as a leading anti-apartheid struggle activist in the Western Cape. Much of her fight focused on the inequalities in the education system, and she dedicated years of her life to the fight against Bantu Education.

The pinnacle of this fight was her activism during the 1976 uprisings.

Ms Ramakaba-Lesiea told the audience that the honorary doctorate was a dream come true.

“I am receiving this award on behalf of those who travelled that road of sacrifice, discipline and commitment in the struggle for a free and just society,” she said. Ms Ramakaba-Lesiea said her duty was now to pass the baton on to a younger generation to continue to eradicate poverty, unemployment and inequality.

“Of critical importance is that the youth forms a major part of this nation.

“It is our responsibility to inculcate in them a sense of patriotism, pride, equality and responsibility. They are our future.”