It was on the recommendation of the vice-president in charge of international relations, Patrick Caron, that the University of Montpellier awarded the title of doctor honoris causa to Professor Tawana Kupe last October. A Zimbabwean, this media specialist has had a brilliant career in South Africa, culminating in his current position as vice-chancellor of theUniversity of Pretoria.

" With this speech, and with great emotion, I would like to share with you the honour and pride I feel in celebrating the exceptional values of Professor Kupe. It is Patrick Caron, with a slightly shaky voice, who finishes his speech that day in the anatomy amphitheatre. Beside him, Tawana Kupe, whose mask barely hides her smile, listens to the eulogy of which he is the subject. It must be said that the CV is long and that each line reinforces a little more the charisma of a character that the Vice-President in charge of international relations knows well. " I lived for two years in Botswana, on the border with South Africa, and I have been working with the University of Pretoria for over twenty years.

Tawana Kupe was born in Zimbabwe in the mid-1960s. The son of a couple of teachers, he went on to study English at theUniversity of Zimbabwe before moving to Oslo, Norway, to do a PhD in media studies. D. in media studies, a discipline that would remain the leitmotif of a multi-faceted career that he pursued mainly in South Africa. First atRhodes University and then, after a brief return to Zimbabwe, at the Witwatersrand, a major university in South Africa's Gauteng province.

Visionary and committed

It was at this university that the man who was not yet a professor developed a precise vision of the structuring of higher education in Africa. Initially recruited as director of the schools of literature and language studies, he founded the department of media studies, which was to become one of the most important in the faculty of humanities of which he was dean. At the Witwatersrand he founded the African Centre for Critical Studies of the United States as a Nation and Society. This project enabled him to build a first bridge between African and American universities.

In addition to his academic career, Tawana Kupe has been involved in a number of other activities. In 2005, he became chairman of the Media Watch Board, which aims to promote the media as an essential institution for the maintenance of democracy. He is also involved with the Amma Bungay Centre for Investigative Journalism, a leading voice on corruption in South Africa. " Tawana Kupe is a very popular person, involved in media life, extremely charismatic, with great oratory skills. Her words count not only in South Africa but in the democratic world in general," the deputy president said.

Post-apartheid transition

This scientific and media recognition will open the doors to theUniversity of Pretoria, where he will become vice-chancellor in 2019. " In South Africa, this position is equivalent to that of a university president in our country. In doing so, Professor Kupe has become the first ' black ' vice-chancellor of a ' white ' university . In this respect, he is one of the faces of the post-apartheid transition," Patrick Caron continues. The key word in the policy he put in place was ' partnership '. And it is indeed an impressive system of networks, alliances and partnerships that Tawana Kupe will succeed in setting up very quickly.

He first joined the board of the Association of African Universities, which brings together 17 institutions with the aim of improving the quality of research and achieving the UN's sustainable development goals. He then founded a consortium of nine African universities around Michigan State University. In 2019, he co-founded the Australian-African Universities Network, connecting researchers and students from both countries. These are all models that the Vice-Chancellor would like to be able to replicate with Europe.

MUSE Ambassador

Firmly committed to the transformation of African research and education in line with the major societal challenges facing Africa and the world, Tawana Kupe has followed the structuring of MUSE with great interest. A project that he did not hesitate to praise before Emmanuel Macron, on an official visit to Pretoria last May. The University of Pretoria has been a strategic partner of the University of Montpellier since the early 1990s," recalls the vice-president. We now want to take our relationship and exchanges further. Tawana Kupe has been invited to sit on and chair the MUSE International Advisory Board. You can now see the extent of Professor Tawana Kupe's activities and influence," concludes Patrick Caron after his eulogy. It is symbolic for us to honour her today with an honorary doctorate.