Former SA Human Rights Commission commissioner (SAHRC) Danny Titus died on Friday at the age of 63. Titus had been in a coma since the end of July after complications arose during an operation to remove a cataract.
The SAHRC remembered Titus as a historian, linguist and academic beyond his human rights work, saying he will be remembered for his great contribution to civil and political rights.
In a statement on Saturday, the SAHRC said Titus joined it in 2009 as a part-time commissioner, and served to protect, promote and monitor the attainment of human rights until the end of his seven-year term in 2016.
“During his tenure at the SAHRC, he championed the cause of civil and political rights [CPR], particularly human rights, law enforcement, and torture.
“In addition to advocating for the development of a CPR portfolio at the SAHRC, he also led the participation of the SAHRC in the review of South Africa’s report under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2016.”
The SAHRC said among his achievements included leading and completing the investigation into the 2011 killing of Andries Tatane, an activist from Ficksburg in the Free State.
It added the investigation led to the initiation of a fruitful relationship with the police and improved training of officers in managing and regulating gatherings to ensure more peaceful and non-violent protests.
Titus also led national hearings on access to basic services, land, and the constitutionality of indigenous groups in South Africa, particularly the Khoisan communities (Khoi, San, Nama, Griqua, Koranna) and was appointed to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“Dr Titus’ contribution to the betterment of South Africa, saw him being honoured in February 2020 as a recipient of the Freedom of the Town during the bicentennial celebration of his birth town, Worcester.”
The SAHRC said beyond his work in human rights, Titus would also be remembered as a historian, linguist and academic, having served as the executive director of culture at the ATKV up until May 2020.
FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald paid tribute to Titus, saying the country would become “poorer” without the commissioner.
He said Titus was able to handle himself well in difficult and emotional situations; and also displayed empathy and understanding for circumstances while able to make rational decisions.
Groenewald added Titus commanded respect and was a great activist for Afrikaans.
“He was truly able to look past skin colour and proved that any person of colour can indeed reach the top in South Africa,” he said.