Born in Worcester, Dr Titus today lives in Johannesburg with his wife and two daughters but regularly travels to Cape Town on business.
Reflecting on his student days he says, “What we went through at the time changed how we thought. All of a sudden you were amongst people who were thinking differently. Not only that but to experience your fellow students and go through that kind of upheaval…It was as if the imprint was very clearly there, that your studies had to matter.
“We learned the value of context and what academic life in a vacuum was. That was a general trend at universities, whereas in our case, and I think it was the same for all black universities, our context was that we had to be grounded in reality.”
He graduated with a BA LLB in 1982 and was admitted as an advocate of the Supreme Court in 1983. He had to work as a public prosecutor as a condition of his Department of Justice (DoJ) bursary and should have then gone to the attorney-general’s office in Johannesburg, but was invited to study at the Rijksuniversiteit Leiden where he gained a doctorate on the applicability of the international norms of human rights to the South African legal system with specific reference to the South African judiciary.
When he returned to South Africa in the early 1990s, Dr Titus undertook human rights work at the Law Commission before becoming executive director of the Goldstone Institute (now the Human Rights Institute of South Africa).
He later moved into academia at Technikon SA and then Unisa when the two distance learning institutions merged. A short stint at the DoJ’s Justice College led to him heading up the cultural section of the Afrikaans Language and Culture Association (ATKV).
“I walked into a new life. I realised I could bring a completely new perspective on Afrikaans to them, which I got from UWC. Under Jakes Gerwel in the 1970s, UWC had the biggest Afrikaans language department in the country, which was never acknowledged as such,” says Dr Titus.
With hindsight he has come to appreciate the value of an engaged mind and critical thinking, which he took for granted as the norm at UWC back in the day.
“You don’t realise what the value is of that until you have to make decisions, resolve conflict or provide leadership. Then, all of a sudden, people will say ‘but I’ve never seen it that way’ and you realise this is not something you studied as a qualification, this is something that is positive inside of you because of studying at UWC. And that became an imprint, a characteristic, a way of life.”