By Zeninjor Enwemeka

Acclaimed playwright Athol Fugard has received an honorary doctorate in philosophy from the University of Stellenbosch.

Fugard was awarded the degree D Phil, honoris causa, on Thursday at the university's graduation ceremony.

The university awards about five to six honorary doctorates a year to outstanding individuals in recognition of their work in particular fields.

Fugard has written 20 plays and done extensive work in film as a director and an actor.

His only novel, Tsotsi, was recently made into a film and received the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The movie is playing in theatres across the world with considerable success.

Fugard was born in 1932 in Middelburg, but grew up in Port Elizabeth. He went to a technical college before studying at the University of Cape Town.

He dropped out of UCT to hitchhike through Africa before becoming a deckhand and spending two years travelling to various parts of the world.

In 1958 he moved to Johannesburg, where he became a court clerk and was confronted with the injustices of the apartheid system.

These experiences became themes in many of his plays as he worked closely with black actors and tried to bring theatre to audiences of different races.

Fugard began working with a group of actors in Johannesburg in the late 1950s and wrote his first play, No Good Friday, in 1961.

Another of the Maties honorary doctorates was awarded on Thursday to Herbert Ernst Wiegand. Wiegand received the degree D Litt, honoris causa, for his work in theoretical lexicography, Germanic studies and linguistics.

This work has established a model for Afrikaans and other language groups in Africa that can be used to compile dictionaries. Wiegand has also done extensive work as a scientist creating scientific journals and book series.

The others were Transnet chief executive Maria Ramos (D Comm), Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Njongonkulu Ndungane (D Th), and Genadendal community leader Bishop John Ulster (D Phil).

Past recipients include President Thabo Mbeki and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.