Professor Johannes Jacobus (Jaap) Fourie Durand was one of several theologians and academics who made a massive contribution to the development of the University of the Western Cape during the 1970s and 1980s. Prof Durand’s colleague, Prof Stanley Ridge, recalls how in the mid-1970s UWC was finding its way from being a bush college to being a university critically engaged with the realities of apartheid South Africa.
“It caused frustration, but UWC was fortunate in having emerging leaders, Jaap Durand prominent among them, who were able to keep the real challenges in focus. At the beginning of 1980 Jaap became UWC’s first ever Vice-Rector. With the warm support of Rector Richard van der Ross, he began the process of reconceptualising the intellectual vision, drawing the deans and other leaders together around the process, and unleashing exciting intellectual vitality in a university in the thick of political upheaval.
“Jaap Durand’s achievement was exceptional in building communal confidence in political and academic responsibility. He led public demonstrations and faced the rubber bullets and teargas. But through it all, he was uncompromising on academic excellence. Jaap was in charge of academic and physical planning. Leading meticulous teamwork, carefully allocating resources, guiding new appointments, and working with some of South Africa’s best architects, he saw UWC transformed into one of South Africa’s best universities. Bravo Jaap!”
Dr Jimmy Ellis remembers Prof Jaap Durand’s rise to prominence as a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa.
“At this point he joined UWC when we interrogated and challenged the role of apartheid in shaping the intellectual life of people of colour from a consciously declared black consciousness orientation. His earlier experience in the black church had stood him in good stead in joining this critical engagement and he was readily accepted into this progressive involvement by mainly black University staff members, when the bona fides of many other whites were under severe scrutiny.
“Joining the Faculty of Theology during the period of critical student involvement, particularly of theological students, in university and national issues, Jaap du Rand’s intellectual contribution clearly made an impact on this engagement. His academic input at a time of intellectual transformation and deepening of the curricula of this faculty, and the University more generally, was of immense value.
“Jaap should perhaps best be remembered for the manner in which he, as Deputy Vice-Chancellor, supported Jakes Gerwel to steer UWC through extremely troubled and treacherous waters. His contribution to running a severely strained budget, to make the University viable, deserves special recognition.”
The author of several books and more than 60 academic articles, Prof Durand has been honoured many times for his dedication and intellectual contribution to the church and theology, including honorary doctorates from the Universities of the Western Cape, Cape Town, Free State and Stellenbosch.