03 March 2021 | Story Dr Annelie de Man

An acting judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, a renowned scholar of African history and African studies, a former deputy chair of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and a scholar in the field of constitutional law, human rights, and public law. These are some of the new extraordinary professor appointments at the Free State Centre for Human Rights (FSCHR) in the Faculty of Law at the University of the Free State (UFS). 

The four new extraordinary professors – Judge Dhaya Pillay and Profs Loot Pretorius, Toyin Falola, and Sandra Liebenberg – bring a wealth of experience to the FSCHR, contributing to a critical, interdisciplinary, and contextually engaged research, advocacy, and legal-practice institution as part of its focus on the relationship between human rights and transformation.

Judge Dhaya Pillay has dedicated her professional life to the pursuit of transformation through law and has a wealth of experience as a defender of human rights. As attorney in apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, she focused her work on assisting political detainees during the states of emergency, as well as other politically related cases. She was a judge of the Labour Court from 2000 to 2010, after which she was appointed to the KwaZulu-Natal High Court where she still serves. She has served as judge in the Supreme Court of Appeal and is a Commissioner of the Independent Electoral Commission. She is currently acting as a justice of the Constitutional Court and is also shortlisted for a permanent appointment in this – South Africa’s highest court.

Throughout her career, Judge Pillay also maintained a strong presence in academia. She has served as an extraordinary professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria and has been a visiting academic or fellow at Seattle University, New York University, the University of Oxford, the Open University, and most recently, Harvard University.
She has also penned a number of academic publications over the course of her career.

In April 2020, she obtained her doctorate in law (LLD) from the University of Pretoria. She is currently converting her thesis into a book to be published towards the end of 2021.

After 40 years of dedicated service to the University of the Free State, Prof Jan-Loot Pretorius retired at the end of 2019. For the last four years, he has served as coordinator of research and postgraduate teaching at the FSCHR. Prof Pretorius’ reputation and standing as scholar in the field of constitutional law, human rights, and public law – more generally – speaks for itself. He completed his LLD at the UFS in 1986 on the topic ‘The concept of public interest and the limitation of human rights’. 

Over the course of his academic career, he has amassed a large number of scholarly publications in the form of books, chapters in books, and journal articles and has addressed a large number of national and international conferences. Prof Pretorius is a regular contributor to the Employment Equity Law handbook, which is updated annually. In addition, he has received many honours and awards, most prominently the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation scholarship for a research project on constitutional models for employment equity at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg, Germany, which was awarded to him three times during his career. Prof Pretorius has supervised 8 doctoral degrees, 7 research master’s, and 26 mini-dissertations.

Prof Sandra Liebenberg is Distinguished Professor and holder of the HF Oppenheimer Chair in Human Rights Law at the University of Stellenbosch. As a scholar, she enjoys considerable international recognition, as evidenced by her B1 NRF rating. She has published four books as author or editor; 32 chapters in books; and 32 articles in peer-reviewed journals and has delivered plenary or keynote presentations at a large number of national and international conferences. She received her LLD from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2011.

In addition to the various boards and committees she has served or serves on, Prof Liebenberg recently concluded a four-year term as member, and from 2019 to 2020 as deputy chair of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Prof Liebenberg is the founder of the Socio-Economic Rights Project of the Community Law Centre at the University of the Western Cape.

Prof Toyin Falola is a renowned scholar of African history and African studies. He holds the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas (Austin), where he is also a University Distinguished Teaching Professor; and the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Chair of Modern African History At-Large with Benue State University, Nigeria.

As author or editor, he has published more than 100 scholarly books on topics such as diaspora and migration, empire and globalisation, intellectual history, international relations, religion and culture, in addition to many journal articles and chapters in books. Prof Falola has been awarded 10 honorary doctorates and has received, among many other awards, the Distinguished Africanist Award from the African Studies Association, the Ibadan Foundation Award for Professional Excellence in Scholarship, and the Cheikh Anta Diop Award for Excellence in African Studies. He served as vice-president of UNESCO’s Slave Route Project International Scientific Committee from 2011 to 2015, and currently sits on the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellows Programme and the International Committee of the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute at UNISA.

Judge Pillay and Profs Pretorius, Liebenberg, and Falola join the current group of extraordinary professors: Retired Judge and Professor Dennis Davis; Prof Mwiza Nkhata; Prof Gracienne Laauwers; Prof Karl Klare; Prof Lucy Williams; and Prof Serges Kamga. Over the next three years, they will be closely involved in various research projects of the FSCHR and will also participate in postgraduate teaching and supervision. 

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