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Father, son in unique double UCT awards

Published Dec 12, 2007


The University of Cape Town is to confer a doctorate of laws on Neville Rubin, 49 years after it capped his father, Leslie, LlD.

This is a double first for the law faculty: not only a father and son being awarded this degree, but also Rubin sen, as a registered student in 1958, was able to vote for his son as president that year of the UCT Students' Representative Council.

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Neville Rubin went on to become president of the National Union of South African Students (Nusas) and a founder member of the underground African Resistance Movement.

Rubin sen, a member of the non-racial Liberal Party, was the Cape provincial African representative in the South African senate from 1954. He resigned when African representation was abolished in 1959, while writing the campaigning pamphlet This is Apartheid.

He left for Ghana in 1960 to join the Institute for African Law. His son left three years later to take up an academic post at London's School of Oriental and African Studies.

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In 1968, father and son got together to produce an enlarged edition of This is Apartheid, which was later expanded again, under UN auspices, to emerge in 1972 as the classic Apartheid in Practice.

By that time Neville Rubin was established as a broadcaster on the BBC Africa Service, edited several publications, and was a lecturer at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at London University.

He and a colleague, Eugene Cotran, are credited, the UCT citation says, with "making a significant contribution to the understanding of customary and contemporary law in Africa" through seven volumes they wrote or edited.

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As legal adviser to the International Defence and Aid Fund, Rubin was responsible for devising many of the methods by which funds were secretly transferred to South Africa to support and defend victims of apartheid.

His role as an adviser to the applicants in World Court cases seeking to end South Africa's occupation of Namibia particularly angered the apartheid authorities.

He joined the International Labour Organisation in 1976 and in the years until his retirement from it in 1995 greatly expanded its involvement in southern Africa.

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After leaving the ILO, Rubin began working seriously on his unique contribution to legal literature, the 3 500-page Code of International Labour Law.

It is for this major work and for his "publications on law in Africa and on labour matters" that the LlD degree is being conferred.

The professor is now hard at work in Kalk Bay writing what is widely expected will be a definitive history of Nusas.

This has led wife, Muriel, an associate lecturer with Britain's Open University, to suggest another award would also be appropriate: an entry in the Guinness World Records for the individual who has typed the most words with a single finger.

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