Janet Mary Cherry (Distinguished Old Rhodian Award)

Janet Mary Cherry
Janet Mary Cherry

Janet Cherry's achievements are so remarkable and varied, from human rights and political activism to lobbying on climate change, energy policy, creating sustainable human settlements, working with NGOs, Government Departments and as a researcher on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that it is impossible to detail them all in this one page citation.

 After graduating from UCT she moved to the Eastern Cape and set up an adult education centre and was a founder of the Eastern Cape End Conscription Campaign in addition to many other varied political involvements.

 Janet obtained her PhD, entitled “KwaZakele: the politics of transition in South Africa: an Eastern Cape study”, and taught in the Rhodes Politics Department. She first became involved in politics as a young student at UCT, becoming General Secretary of NUSAS in 1983. Janet has been a fearless fighter for justice and has never been intimidated by barriers and obstacles despite having spent many months in detention, including solitary confinement and house arrest for her refusal to be silenced for her views on the atrocities of apartheid.  Since the advent of democracy in 1994 she has continued to pour her energy into rebuilding South Africa as well as working in strife-torn places elsewhere in Africa and Europe.

 Janet has made an invaluable contribution to enabling, documenting and supporting the development of democracy in South Africa. The diversity of her work is astonishing, from her action research projects with the most marginalised groups in Port Elizabeth such as Amabutho and informal settlement dwellers, to documenting the oral history of the liberation struggle at “grassroots” level.

 She is an academic who finds a remarkable balance between good community facilitation practice and academic rigour.  Her human rights training work and activism are internationally renowned and respected, as is her integrity as an academic.

 Janet is an inspiring person to know, never afraid to speak her mind with convincing clarity and vision. She has boundless energy – whether horse riding, hiking with her son, running a workshop in Mexico, performing her poetry, arguing politics with friends, lecturing at NMMU or many of the other activities she manages to be involved in.

 Janet is an ideal recipient of the Distinguished Old Rhodian Award for her intellectual and political leadership in the field of human rights and has been and will continue to be an inspiration to many. She epitomises the Rhodes ethos of “Where Leaders Learn”.