Professor Sir Bob Hepple
Doctor of Laws
Professor Sir Bob Hepple was active as a student leader opposing the introduction of racial discrimination in the universities of South Africa. Born in South Africa, he was also active in the South African Congress of Trade Unions, an ally of the African National Congress.
The University of Kent was deeply saddened to learn that a few weeks after receiving his honorary degree, Professor Sir Bob Hepple passed away.
Professor Sir Bob Hepple participated in the underground struggle against apartheid and acted as a lawyer for Nelson Mandela and other leaders. He escaped to England in 1963 from the Rivonia trial, in which Mandela and others were sentenced to life imprisonment. In 2014, on the 20th anniversary of the new democracy, he was awarded the Order of Luthuli in Gold for his ‘exceptional contribution to the struggle for democracy and human rights’.
In England he practised as a barrister and employment judge and pursued an academic career in the Universities of Cambridge, Nottingham, Kent, and UCL, ending as Master of Clare College and Professor of Law in Cambridge. He was an international expert and activist in the fields of equality, human rights and labour law.
He was Chair of the international human rights organisations, the European Roma Rights Centre and the Equal Rights Trust, of which he was subsequently Honorary President. He was also Honorary President of the Industrial Law Society. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel (honoris causa) in 1996, a Fellow of the British Academy in 2003, and knighted for services to legal studies in 2004.