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Tue, 08.07.1945

Barney Pityana, African Policy Advocate born

Barney Pityana

*Barney Pityana was born on this date in 1945. He is a Black South African human rights lawyer, activist, and theologian.

Nyameko Barney Pityana was born in Uitenhage and attended the University of Fort Hare. He was one of the founding members of the South African Students' Organisation (SASO) of the Black Consciousness Movement with Steve Biko and Harry Ranwedzi Nenwekhulu. He was also a member of the African National Congress Youth League. He was suspended for challenging the authority of the Afrikaans teachers and the apartheid principles of "Bantu education."

Pityana received a degree from the University of South Africa in 1976 but was barred from practicing law in Port Elizabeth by the apartheid government. The apartheid government banned him from public activity. Pityana went into exile in 1978, studying theology at King's College London and training for the ministry Ripon College Cuddesdon in Oxford. After that, he served as an Anglican curate in Milton Keynes and as a vicar in Birmingham. From 1988 to 1992, he was Director of the Program to Combat Racism at the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

Pityana returned to South Africa in 1993, following the end of apartheid. He continued working in theology and human rights, completing a Ph.D. in Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town in 1995. He was appointed a member of the South African Human Rights Commission in 1995 and was chairman of the commission from 1995 to 2001. He also served on the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights at the Organisation of African Unity in 1997. Professor Pityana became Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of South Africa in 2001 and held the position for nine years.

His work in human rights has been widely recognized, and in December 2002, he was awarded an Honorable Mention of the 2002 UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education. In 2008 following the resignation of former President Thabo Mbeki as a President of South Africa, Prof Pityana and other former prominent ANC members formed a rival party to the ANC called Congress of the People. He is known to be a vocal critic of the former ANC leadership under Jacob Zuma, called for the resignation of Zuma, and has links with grassroots movements opposed to the ANC.

He is an exponent of Black theology. Pityana has not announced his return to the African National Congress. Instead, the cabinet appointed him at age 76 to chair the National Lotteries Commission. He was the College of the Transfiguration (Anglican) rector from 2011 until 2014). He is the President of the Convocation of the University of Cape Town.

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