Congratulations to Dr Tabeth Masengu who has been announced as the first recipient of the Christof Heyns Memorial Thesis Award, a UP Law’s PULP award for the best thesis by an African doctoral candidate completed in 2020. Run by the Pretoria University Law Press (PULP), this award was introduced to honour the memory of the late Professor Christof Heyns, who passed away in March 2021. Based on the assessment of a professorial panel from three universities across the continent, the criteria included quality of research, relevance of the topic to African challenges, and originality in terms of approach.
Completed under the co-supervision of Professor Hugh Corder (UCT Law) and Professor Eva Brems (University of Ghent), Dr Masengu’s thesis is titled What lies beneath the complex nature of appointing women judges in Zambia and South Africa, and will be published as a monograph by PULP. In addition to selection for publication, Dr Masengu’s work has earned her a R10 000 cash prize as part of the Memorial Thesis Award.
Being the first recipient of this Award is not the only time Dr Masengu has been a “first”. She was also the first UCT Law PhD student to graduate with a joint doctorate degree - ie. Dr Masengu has two degrees, one from each of UCT and the University of Ghent in Belgium.
When asked why she had chosen to pursue this joint approach, Dr Masengu explained:
A joint degree allowed me to tap into the intellectual resources of two world-renowned universities while also enabling me to be a pioneer and set the way for others who would come. I also wanted to challenge myself. What better way to do so than work towards a joint degree, with registration and administrative processes at two universities and with two different types of doctoral examination.
Having developed her research from a foundation of working with UCT Law’s Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, focused on judicial governance across the continent and gender transformation in the judiciary and the legal profession, Dr Masengu is now the Advocacy Coordinator of a European network of Christian NGO’s based in Brussels. Working in relief and development in developing countries, Dr Masengu notes the critical value her PhD research brings to this role in understanding gender discrimination, intersectionalities and how they affect inequality.