Prof Barney Pityana has been vocal in South Africa's fight for a true democracy. Picture: Supplied by Rhodes university
Johannesburg – Professor Barney Pityana, the man credited for coining the phrase "Black men you are own your own", and also co-founding the Black Consciousness Movement in the mid-1960s alongside Steve Biko, will be conferred with an honorary doctorate by Rhodes University next Saturday.

Rhodes University said in a statement on Thursday that it will confer honorary doctorates to five distinguished game-changers in different fields of study and philanthropy. The 2017 graduation ceremony takes place in Grahamstown on April 20 to 22.

An outspoken champion for human rights, lawyer and man of God, Pityana has been vocal in South Africa's fight for a true democracy. He is a vocal critic of the present African National Congress (ANC) leadership under President Jacob Zuma. Pityana has also called for the resignation of Zuma and has links with grassroots movements opposed to the ANC.

His stance during this time of political unrest and uncertainties is: “If we are to overcome challenges of poverty, unemployment, health, education, land restitution, the economy, bitterness, anger, we need men and women full of goodness, faith, truth and love.”

Rhodes University said this year's honorary doctorates were men and women from across the continent who have made globally recognised contributions in culture, social cohesion, democracy and the betterment of humanity.

Other honorary doctorate recipients are Jamaican-British dub poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson, activist Dr Sheila Sisulu, world-renowned South African-born fine artist Dr Penny Siopis, and Burundi-born philanthropist Dr Marguerite Barankitse.

Rhodes University will also cap a total of 2 443 degrees and diplomas over six ceremonies and three days. Of these, 54 percent are undergraduate Bachelor's degrees and 46 percent are postgraduate degrees and diplomas. Just under 300 Masters degrees and 78 PhD will be awarded.

The Faculty of Science, the third largest in the university, has produced 31 PhDs.

Also noteworthy is that for the first time in the history of Rhodes University, 60 percent of the graduates will be women.

The School of African Languages will have its first ever PhD with a thesis written in IsiXhosa this year, with six PhD students graduating from the school for the first time ever.