Former Political Prisoner Professor Raymond Suttner will graduate with a Master of Laws (LLM) from the University of Cape Town (UCT) in December – nearly 50 years after he introduced it.
In 1969, Suttner's LLM thesis on legal pluralism in South Africa was denied because he cited Jack Simons, who was banned as a listed commissioner.
When Suttner's supervisor instructed him to remove the quotations before the examination, he refused and, in return, withdrew the dissertation.
"At that moment I was also a liberal, and my understanding of my liberalism was that I could not write anything in which I claimed the faith of ideas without recognizing them," he explained.
"For this reason, I thought I had no choice but to withdraw the thesis."
He hopes that the presentation of his thesis will give Simons the recognition he deserves.
"This work expanded beyond African customary law and covered many disciplines. At Simons Memorial Service in St Georges Cathedral in 1995, Constitutional Court Judge Albie Sachs described it as one of the great teachers of the 20th century, "he recalled.
"Many former students and researchers of all political beliefs will bear witness to this."
Search for the copy of the thesis for five months
Suttner insists that he may not have written a word without the support of Simons, who was also a mentor for the developing scientist.
Through the intervention of Professor of Public Law at UCT, Professor Dee Smythe, Suttner's thesis was resumed for consideration.
"I proposed to Professor Suttner the course of action that I continued," she said.
"At that time, Prof Suttner was not sure if he had another copy and it took about five months to find him. It was manually written on manuscript paper and was delivered to us at the beginning of 2018.
"We were all very clear that the dissertation must stand on its own merits, meeting the criteria for Prof. Hugh Corder (dean of law) and I read it and they were both very impressed by the breadth and rigidity of the work. will surely stand up to examining the exam. In fact, it has remarkable contemporary resonance. "
UCT spokesman Thami Nkwanyane said the institution has focused on remedying the past injustices.
"UCT recognizes that the institution's inheritance – like our country – is not just to celebrate our most loved moments, but also to recognize the cases where the university has participated in inequity and to remedy them," he said.
Suttner is currently a professor and strategic consultant at the University of Science in Johannesburg.