Honorary degrees – and particularly doctorates – awarded by universities are often abused, because they can be sops to powerful politicians or payback to influential backers.
The exact opposite is true of two honorary doctorates awarded by the North West University (NWU) this week, to two outstanding South Africans, former public protector Thuli Madonsela and Gift of the Givers founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman.
Madonsela relentlessly pursed wrongdoing in government and opened the first cracks in the state capture edifice, bringing about the eventual downfall of Jacob Zuma. Sooliman’s organisation has been helping hundreds of thousands of people in South Africa and globally, who were struck down by natural disasters.
Both embody the selfless commitment to doing the right thing, to make the world a better place. Inasmuch as the NWU doctorates are well-deserved personal recognition for exceptional people, they are also a mark that our society – through academia – will recognise the vital role of organisations like the office of the public protector and Gift of the Givers.
And, it is fitting that the NWU doctorates, like the work and achievements of both Madonsela and Sooliman, do not come with any strings attached.