Nyameko Barney Pityana completed his law degree through Unisa in 1976 and served as Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Unisa from 2001 to 2010.


During Pityana’s decade as Vice-Chancellor, he exercised a resolute resistance to government and ruling-party influences that at times resulted in conflict with the Ministry of Education and the ANC. Yet, Pityana was a determined driver of the government’s mandate to transform higher education, instituting changes at Unisa that ranged from a firm anti-racism policy to active Africanisation — including the successful creation of Unisa’s satellite campus in Ethiopia. Pityana had been a leader of the South African Students’ Organisation and the Black Consciousness Movement in the 1970s. Banned from practising law due to his political activities, he left for England where he studied theology and trained for the Anglican ministry. After returning home in 1993, he completed his doctorate and became a High Court attorney. In a rich career, Pityana has skilfully straddled the worlds of religion, academia, law and human rights. In 2006, he was awarded the Order of the Grand Counsellor of the Baobab: Silver for his “excellent contribution to a just and democratic South Africa”.