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Nelson Mandela University’s expert conferred with honorary doctorate

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Professor of Development Studies at Nelson Mandela University. Professor Janet Cherry received an Honorary Doctorate in Law from Rhodes University at its graduation ceremony on 30 March.

Prof Cherry has been honoured for her 40 years of academic life coupled with her passion for activism.

She completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Cape Town in 1982, majoring in economic history and industrial sociology, and during her time at university, served as General Secretary of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS). In 1984 she moved to Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) and established the East Cape Adult Education Project and the Port Elizabeth Crisis Information Centre.

In the mid-1980s, she was very active in the fight against apartheid as a member of the United Democratic Front. During this time, she endured a long period of detention without trial.

She then completed an Honours degree in Economic History at UCT after having spent four years working in human rights and adult education NGOs along with her focus on activism.

Prof Cherry worked as a research consultant for the Black Sash, the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa (IDASA) and the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), and in the process, completed a master’s degree cum laude in Economic History at UCT.

From 1992 to 1994, Prof Cherry lectured in Political Studies and International Relations at Rhodes University and then returned to Gqeberha to set up a development and research consultancy, ABC Consultants.

She later worked as a member of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s research team and then as a senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the then University of Port Elizabeth (UPE).

Continuing with her studies, she graduated with a PhD from Rhodes for her thesis, “Kwazakhele: The Politics of Transition in South Africa”.

From 2003 to 2005, Prof Cherry was employed by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) as a Senior Research Specialist in the Democracy and Governance programme, and from 2005 to 2009 was a Senior Lecturer and Research Associate in the Department of Development Studies at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).

Prof Cherry has also served as a research consultant to the South African Democracy Education Trust (SADET), the Red Location Museum, the Foundation for Human Rights, the International Council on Human Rights Policy, and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

She has been involved in a number of international and national research projects and has published significantly in the fields of democratisation, democratic participation, South African liberation history, sustainable development, gender and human rights, labour, transitional justice and civil resistance.

She has supervised eight doctoral students and has published three books.

Her current research interest is in conducting participatory action research on the just energy transition and regional policies for sustainable development in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa.

For her intellectual and political leadership, Prof Cherry was awarded the Distinguished Old Rhodian Award in 2013

On accepting her honorary doctorate, Prof Cherry said, “I am happy to receive this honorary doctorate as it acknowledges what kind of research needs to be done with great urgency in our society.”