On Friday 7 December, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Council will present its Prestige Awards to five outstanding South Africans who made significant contributions in the fields of public health, education and the pursuit of justice and equality.
The Prestige Award is made to anyone who has rendered distinguished services that have made a significant impact on the wider local community in any field which supports the social and/or educational mission of the university.
Human rights activist Dr Wendy Orr will receive the award for her courageous approach in advancing the achievement of human rights and for her unwavering commitment to the transformation of society in pursuit of equality and social justice.
Dr Orr has led and continues to lead an extraordinary life which has influenced change in the apartheid struggle and the fight for human rights. She was just 23 when she qualified as a medical doctor at the University of Cape Town in 1983. While working in the medical examiner’s office in Port Elizabeth in 1985, she treated political detainees who had been assaulted and became the first and only doctor in government employment to reveal police torture and abuse of these detainees, when she applied to the Supreme Court for a restraining order against the police.
In the early 1990s she became involved in activism around HIV/Aids and trained as an Aids counsellor in London and New York. In 1995 she was appointed by then-President Nelson Mandela as a Commissioner on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa where she served until its closure, after which she was appointed as Director of Transformation and Employment Equity at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is currently head of Group Inclusion Strategies for the Standard Bank Group.
United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) minister Rev Fred Hufkie will receive his award posthumously for challenging the unfairness of racially segregated education, and for his care and concern for community activists and their families. Following three years of theology studies at Rhodes, the UCCSA placed him in the Ennerdale United Congregational Church in Johannesburg to complete a two-year internship. He then received a call to Graaff-Reinet to the Parsonage Street United Congregational Church, where he was ordained. He served this congregation from 1983 to 1995.
Reverend Hufkie spent his life serving communities in the under-resourced Great Karoo area. A teacher by profession, he rose to be the principal of Spandau High School in Graaff-Reinet. As a strong opponent of racially segregated education, Rev Hufkie was arrested and detained at the height of the people’s uprising against “bantu education” in 1976, and imprisoned in Victor Verster prison for seven months.
Another recipient is Dr Simon Gqubule, who will be awarded the Council Prestige Award for his dedication, sound work ethics and integrity and for motivating others to strive for excellence.
Dr Gqubule was born near Cookhouse in the Eastern Cape in February 1928. He qualified as a teacher at the Healdtown Mission Station in 1949. He then attended the University College of Fort Hare where he obtained a bachelor’s degree. In 1951, he entered the ministry in the Methodist Church of South Africa.
He then taught at the Lovedale United Theological School (LUTS) and at Fort Hare. During this period, he was part of the team of the Federal Theological Seminary which was established at Alice in 1963. He continued his studies in Geneva, London, and Edinburgh and was the first African student to qualify for a PhD degree at Rhodes University.
In February 1988, as a leader of the UDF, he was banned and restricted to the Pietermaritzburg magisterial district and placed under house arrest. The restrictions were lifted in December 1989. In 1990, he was a Visiting Lecturer in Greek and New Testament at Wesley College, Bristol, England.
He left the seminary at the end of 1991 after 31 years as a theological teacher. From 1992 until the end of 1998 when he retired, he was Superintendent Minister of the Mount Coke Circuit and then Bishop of the Queenstown District of the Methodist Church of South Africa. In addition, he has been involved with various educational projects including the Masizakhe Educational Project with the late Raymond Uren and also the llitha Lemfundo Educational Enhancement Project which runs Saturday classes for Grades 10, 11 and 12 learners from several Uitenhage schools.
For her unstinting commitment to ensuring top quality healthcare in the demanding environment of the public health system, and for her lifelong service to serving her community, NMMU will also present Nomalungelo Alicia Mhlantla with the Council Prestige Award.
Ms Mhlantla was born in Port Elizabeth in 1939. After completing her matric at Newell High School in New Brighton, she chose a career in nursing and commenced her studies in 1958 at the General Hospital in Pretoria. This was followed by a stint at the Jane Furse Memorial Hospital in Middelburg, Gauteng. In 1965 she completed the Midwifery Nursing Science Diploma at Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth.
In 1968, after a stint at a hospital in Flagstaff, she returned to Port Elizabeth’s Livingstone Hospital and in 1974 she obtained a Diploma in Operating Theatre Nursing Science after which she was appointed as the Chief Matron in charge of the operating theatre complex. She continued with her studies and in 1996 obtained a BACur degree from UNISA majoring in Nursing Administration and Community Health Nursing. She retired as theatre matron in April 1999, a true peer and role model for all nurses.
She remained active in nursing science even after her retirement and joined the Retired Nurses Organisation. From 2002 until 2004, she was engaged by the Human Science Research Council to conduct some research on HIV and Aids Awareness and Prevention Programme in South Africa and Education for Life.
Another health professional being recognised is Dr Pat Naidoo. He will receive the award for his life-long contribution to serving the needs of the sick and the poor through his dedication to public health services. He has made a significant contribution to designing the architecture of the country’s healthcare system by serving on numerous strategic management teams looking at the state of health care, including being Head of the Hospital Commission pilot project to coordinate resources of the Eastern Cape. This involved assessing 34 hospitals, culminating in a report with recommendations to Provincial Cabinet. In addition, he was involved with the Moodley Commission on the future of academic health centres with recommendations to the National Minister of Health.
The standard of healthcare in Port Elizabeth has improved vastly due to Dr Naidoo’s input who done amazing work in ensuring that standards are maintained and that staff and equipment are allocated to hospitals. He has gained international respect for what he has done for medicine in the Eastern Cape and has received awards for his role in health policy development and human rights interventions.