Stevenson Lecture - October 11

The Stevenson Trust for Citizenship

Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo

'Cultural Diversity, Belonging and the Law in Societies in Transition - the South African case'.

  • Date: Tuesday, October 11th 2016 at 6 pm
  • Venue: Sir Charles Wilson Lecture Theatre (Corner of Gibson Street and University Avenue)

South Africa is a country that faces tensions at many levels which involve various contestations: between tradition and modernity; between rich and poor; educated and uneducated; urban and rural; even between radical and liberal interpretations of democracy. For now, fortunately, the locus for these contestations is the constitution, which prevents them from being played out in the streets. This might change if the rising wave of cultural activism and traditional expectations within the country do not find an outlet.

The lecture will examine the efforts of the courts and the legislature over the last 20 years to recognise customary law and traditional practices while attempting to apply a Bill of Rights based on international human rights norms. In the process, the lecture questions the efficacy of law in bonding different cultural traditions within a single polity in order to create a sense of nationhood, making the point that the task is not made easier by the manifest inequality between the cultures in question.
Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo has had an academic career spanning over three decades of research, writing, teaching, public service and social activism. He was Head of the Department of Private Law and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cape Town. Among a series of public roles he served as Commissioner of the of the South African Law Reform Commission, and chaired the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims (which came to be known as the Nhlapo Commission), and now serves as Chair of the Human Rights Development Initiative (HRDI, Pretoria), a regional non-profit body which operates in 10 African countries.

Professor Nhlapo has a long association with the University of Glasgow, beginning as a student and early recipient of the Albert Luthuli Scholarship, graduating in 1978 with an LLB (Hons). In 1989, he returned to Glasgow to receive the Principal’s Prize and in 2012 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University.

The lecture will be followed by discussion and a drinks reception at 7.30 pm. All staff, students, and members of the public are welcome. No advance booking is necessary. For further information contact:

First published: 3 October 2016

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