From 1966 to 1993, Marinus Wiechers was the Chair of Constitutional and Public International Law at Unisa. He served as Unisa’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor from 1994 to 1997.
A leading expert in constitutional law, Wiechers headed Unisa during the climax of South Africa’s transition to democracy. He embraced the new era of transformation with “almost anarchic energy”. He was born in Pretoria and had studied art and languages while reading law at the University of Pretoria. He joined Unisa’s Faculty of Law in 1960 and would remain with Unisa for some 40 years. Wiechers drew on his substantial constitutional knowledge to advise in the drafting of Namibia’s and South Africa’s democratic constitutions. This background catalysed both his appointment as Principal of Unisa and his subsequent approach to the role. He formed a broad transformation forum and tackled conservative traditions in a manner that he later described as “wild” and “fun”. During Wiechers’s vice-chancellorship, Nelson Mandela received his Unisa LLB, and Unisa gained an instant Africa-wide reputation as “Nelson Mandela’s university”.